As we approach the spring semester’s grand finale, with final RSO meetings and bouncy house-laden end-of-the-year events, it’s really hard to feel alone, especially with everyone having the shared experiences of preparing for finals while trying to conclude things on a fun note.
I definitely consider myself the type of person who actively tries to make time to go to as many events on campus as possible throughout the year. Doing so is a great way to take a break from academics and to have memorable, enriching, potentially eye-opening experiences, be it at a theater performance or a guest lecture. I’d be lying if I said that I didn’t appreciate the occasional freebie, either. Sometimes, however, attending such events solo can prove to be a challenge.
You may recall my reflective blog post (although in hindsight, it may have been more of a poetic rant) about eating alone. But as much as admittedly I enjoy consuming food, we do more than eat, and whatever it is that we do outside of meal times, there’s always a chance that we’ll be doing it on our own.
Arriving on campus last semester, with the only people I knew being those who’d existed in the virtual confines of tiny lil’ Zoom boxes on my computer screen, the prospect of attending such events on my own was, in a word, scary. When eating alone in a dining hall, you have, at the very least, something to preoccupy yourself with, whether it’s standing in line for cheese cubes or (unsuccessfully) trying to munch celery at socially-acceptable noise levels. However, when going about an event — or even exploring a new place — independently, there’s always that risk that you’ll find yourself at a loss as to what to do with yourself.
The Honors College and University as a whole offer a great deal for us to do, from free ice cream to theme park trips. Of course, embarking on such adventures alone can be nerve wracking, but there’s a few tips for going about things unaccompanied that I’ve personally picked up in the process.
For starters, keep in mind that one of the advantages about the Honors College and university life as a whole is that you sort of belong to multiple communities by default, and therefore you often can’t really be “alone” since the people around you aren’t technically “strangers.” Likewise, there’s a good chance that you have the same major or minor, professor, hometown, etc., with at least one person in your general vicinity. Take a leap and strike up a conversation with the person next to you. Some people find this prospect horrifying, and let’s be honest, it can be pretty hit-or-miss, but I say the risk is worth the reward of discovering a mutual interest or connection with someone you might otherwise not have had occasion to interact with.
Moreover, it’s highly likely that you’re going to run into someone you know anyway, whether you consider them a good friend or honestly just can’t remember their name despite sitting next to them in class for three months (it happens to the best of us). What’s even better, if they’re with a group, they can introduce you to their friends.
And if they’re alone, congratulations: you’ve got someone to hang out with! There have been many times when I’ve attended an event or gone somewhere nervously on my own and have unexpectedly run into someone I know who also came — you guessed it — alone!
Or maybe you end up entirely alone, and that’s completely fine. You’re presented with the next best thing — the opportunity to meet new people. You can also go about things on your own terms and come and go as you please. In any case, utilize this circumstance to be that mysterious, intriguing Blue Hen wandering around, owning their independence, and maybe make a friend or two in the process.
I, for one, have explored Main Street by myself many times, having solitary adventures in such mysterious locales as the dollar store and the Newark Arts Alliance. I’ve checked out some cool spots on campus alone, including Old College Gallery, and on an RSO trip to New York City, I happily — yes, happily — strolled along the beach not knowing a single person around me.
Also, in these contexts, be sure to just relax. Smile a bit. I can safely say that people do smell fear, but in general, as someone who personally needs to work on their smiling consistency a bit, I’ve realized that strangers are simply more inclined to want to connect with you if you appear, well, friendly! It’s perfectly normal to feel nervous on your own; just don’t let it get the best of you and get in the way of meeting others and enjoying yourself.
Look, I’m not saying being alone in a space full of people is always a blast. Naturally there are and always will be times when I wish an acquaintance were near, especially when I find myself face-to-face with YoUDee in all their surprisingly intimidating Fightin’ Blue Hen glory at campus events.
What’s been especially great, though, is that over these past two semesters I’ve amassed a group of people I consider friends that I can go to events with or at least expect to run into around campus. And you know how I did it? By going to things by myself, with an open mind, ready for an experience and also the chance to meet new people.
For all its intimidations, going into things alone has frankly yielded a great deal of rewards, rewards more valuable than any free cookies or t-shirt. Be that as it may, I’d much rather be uncomfortable yet participating in something enjoyable than comfortable but regretful that I didn’t.