I love people and I love having friends.
But I hate meeting people. And I hate making friends.
Which made the first few months of university especially painful for me. I’m probably the last person who should be giving social advice, but here are the best tips I have for surviving those first few months away from home. They’re probably most useful for people who are as socially inept as I was.
1. Get out of your room.
Even it’s just to sit by yourself with your laptop. Even if you like to sit by yourself with your laptop. You might meet other people who like to sit with their laptops, too, and you can maybe start doing this together.
Like Cath, the main character of Fangirl, I’m a huge proponent of Internet friendship. But it’s nice to have people in your life who can hand you a pen, give you a ride to the store, or share their popcorn. You can also be friends with these same people on the Internet.
2. Make eye contact. Say things out loud.
These seem obvious, I guess. But my instinct in new situations is to stare at the floor and fade into the walls. My second semester at school, I resolved to hold eye contact with people in classes, in my dormitory and in the cafeteria – rather than immediately looking down. I made a special effort to do this with boys, who terrified me. It was shocking how well it worked. I found myself getting to know people and learning their names.
This also led to me dating a guy I always saw in the line at the cafeteria. (Seriously: Un-creepy eye contact, “Hello” — it worked.) We broke up very painfully two years later, but I don’t think that undermines the validity of this advice.
3. Don’t get drunk. At least not right away.
Actually, my advice would be to avoid getting drunk until you’re 30. But really, really, don’t get drunk those first few weeks and months at school. You think it’s going to make it easier for you to get to know people, but really, it just makes you drunk. And then you’re drunk with strangers – which is sometimes fun, but sometimes tragic. And it’s hard to predict “fun” or “tragic” at the beginning of the night.
Also, if you show up at school and immediately start getting drunk to have fun, it makes you less resourceful about having other sorts of fun. Getting drunk will always be an option. Don’t make it Plan A.
4. Don’t feel like you have to reinvent yourself.
I mean, not just for the sake of it. University is an opportunity to experiment and try things on, to learn more about yourself. But don’t feel like you have to change who you are – or sacrifice the things you loved as a child at the altar of Becoming an Adult.
This is a big issue for Cath in Fangirl. She feels like she has to let go of everything that makes her feel safe and happy – her family, her favorite books, her fandom.
You’ll definitely change and grow when you leave home, but you’ll still be you. You get to bring the things you love with you when you grow up.