Getting out there: Tips from a reformed hermit

As college students, we often hear cautionary tales of students who forsake their studies to partake in the “typical college experience,” filled with an abundance of parties and socializing. This narrative is often accompanied by familiar adages such as, “Have fun, but not too much,” “Don’t lose track of time,” and “Remember, you’re there to get a degree in more than just partying.”

However, often excluded from this tale is that of the young scholar most focused on her studies. This character is far less interested in socializing than she is in getting her homework done, keeping her grades up and binging on Netflix. While hers is not the stereotypical college experience, she is having an experience of her own — one that demands its own set of cautionary adages.

During my first few semesters on the Hill, that hermit was me.

But eventually, I learned the importance of balance: There was nothing wrong with focusing on my studies, but I needed to remember to step out of my comfort zone and enjoy college, too.

So here’s my advice to you, from one reformed hermit to all my other slightly antisocial, semi-introverted darlings.

1. Don’t hole up in your room for every meal and after every class.

Seriously, don’t. Perhaps no one loves her cozy dorm room full of succulents and snacks more than I do, but get out.

Hungry? Grab some Subway and find yourself a spot under a shady tree, or enjoy some Steak ‘n Shake fries in the air conditioned comfort of Downing Student Union.

In between classes with some time to kill? Hang out in Java City on the first floor of Helm Library, or relax at the Colonnade. Our campus is gorgeous, and even if you’re not hanging out with friends or striking up a conversation with strangers, just being out can help you feel more connected.

2. Get involved in something on campus.

I know, this sounds cliché. But there are over 300 organizations on campus filled with cool, interesting students, just waiting for you to meet them. Who knows, some may even share your hermit-like tendencies.

Even getting a local job to work a few hours each week can immensely expand your friend circle (and your wallet).

3. Make a buddy in class.

I think there is a strange belief about college classrooms and students’ inability to make friends within them. As someone who has befriended many classmates throughout my years on the Hill, I can satisfactorily debunk this myth.

Between the shared interests you probably have with people in your classes (especially if it’s a class in your major) and the fact that classes are stressful, it’s a good idea to make a friend. Having someone to ask about the notes or even borrow a pen from is super helpful. And maybe this person will become someone you can study with or say “hey,” to in the halls. And that goes a long way.

4. Go to events on campus.

Seriously, do anything to get out of your room. There are so. many. events. From rad science stuff in Hardin Planetarium to funky feminist meetings to exciting sporting events of every shape and size – WKU has got it.

5. Study abroad.

Yup, just get out of the country.

“How can I even do that?” you might be wondering. “Wasn’t I just calling myself a hermit a few paragraphs ago?”

Sure. And I am, too, to some degree. But sometimes it’s easier to simply remove yourself from all comfort to find where you belong. That’s definitely true to my own experience.

As a Harlaxton alum, I can truthfully say that I have never appreciated my life, my school or my world as much as I did after spending a semester abroad. Nor have I ever made so many deep connections with other students, both at other universities and here at WKU. Now, I have wonderful friends who I would’ve never known otherwise in a school of over 20,000 people.

Here’s the deal: Your introversion, your weirdness with people, your dedication to your studies, your social anxiety, even your love for your bed, don’t have to hold you back from getting the most out of your college experience. There are so many opportunities out there. It’s simply up to you to grab what you want.

Your college experience is what you make it, so, from one reformed hermit to another, make it good.