Your relationships with friends, roommates, instructors, and others is a very large component of your life at college, especially if you are living away from home and family. Having friends you can count on helps to keep you from feeling isolated, and means you have people to turn to for comfort, conversation, support-- not to mention fun and companionship! You will also discover that other students can be an academic resource, whether it’s to study and work together on projects or to share class notes you might have missed. (See "You're Not Alone" for some more thoughts about starting college.)
In college, you will meet people from different places and backgrounds and will broaden your knowledge of the world. In addition, other students with disabilities can be a wonderful resource; their experiences in getting around campus and dealing with the instructors and administrators can help answer many of your questions.
In addition to your roommate and other people in your dorm, you will also meet people in the cafeteria over meals, before the start of class, or walking along the college campus.
Try to get the name, telephone number, and e-mail address of one or two people in every class. Invite someone you would like to get to know to have a cup of coffee or to join you for an event you are interested in.
You're Not Alone
Starting college is often overwhelming. And, if you find yourself feeling this way, you're not alone--just about everyone finds that going to college means making many big adjustments in various areas of life, all at once. At the same time, making the transition to college can be the beginning of widening your world as well as exploring and finding out who you are, what you want to do with your life, what really interests you, and who may be your friends and contacts for many years to come. Expect to feel confused and lonely sometimes, but remember that this is all a process and a continuing journey.
In those moments when you may feel at a loss, here are some suggestions that may help:
- While you're trying to make new friends and a new social life, emotional support from people who care about you is helpful. Touching base with your friends from high school and your community, your parents, your siblings or other family members, and trusted individuals such as former teachers can boost your spirits and reinforce your feelings of acceptance and self-worth.
- Joining groups, or maintaining your membership in them, is another way of staying connected with people who can offer you information, tips, help, and camaraderie. Sports, web-based interest groups, and campus activities are just some possibilities; volunteering, contacting professional and student membership organizations, and exploring mentoring arrangements such as CareerConnect, the employment and careers mentor database maintained by the American Foundation for the Blind (www.afb.org/CareerConnect/users) are others.
- Your college and its campus and national organizations in the field of visual impairment and blindness offer resources as well as staff who may provide a friendly ear as well as useful information. Counselors in the academic, disability services, placement, and psychological services areas on campus and outreach and hotline operators at national organizations are all good sources of assistance and support if needed.
- Keep in mind that this particular time is part of a transitional phase and you'll soon be moving into another, more informed and self-assured phase of your life. Remember that you're just learning the ropes in this particular situation.
Activities, Clubs, and Events
There is always something to do on campus. Getting involved in some of the many activities usually found on college campuses is a great way to meet people as well as to have fun, pursue your interests, and discover new areas to learn about--and possibly pursue as a career. Most campuses offer a variety of activities:
- structured clubs (for example, hobbies, performing arts, newspaper, political events)
- sororities and fraternities
- volunteer groups
- fitness center
- cultural events (for example, theater performances, movies, musical performances)
- sporting events (for example, basketball, football, gymnastics)
- religious organizations and groups
The best way to check on these activities, clubs, and events is through your college web site and student center. You can investigate what is available through e-mail and then attend a meeting or an event to find out more information.
Sometimes there are so many choices that you may be tempted to plunge into more than you can manage. To evaluate which activity, club, or events you would be happiest participating in, ask yourself a few questions:
- What are my primary areas of interest (languages, sports, music, politics, art, etc.)?
- Do I want to become involved in a new activity, or do I want to do something I am already familiar with?
- Is this activity or event accessible for me to fully participate in, or will I require some accommodations?
- Do I want to join an activity where I take an active or a passive role?
- How much free time do I have to devote to these activities?
- What types of people am I most interested in meeting?
- Will this activity provide a helpful break from my studying and other commitments?
- Will this activity add to or detract from my total college experience?
Start with one club or activity that suits you and in which you can fully participate; avoid overcommitting yourself and your time until you have a good sense of the amount of academic work you'll need to do.
You can always add other activities as your time allows. Being socially active can help you make friends, feel a part of your college's life and community, explore new ideas, and prepare you for life after college. Clubs and social events can also help you adjust to your new life by helping you meet people and feel connected, so try to allow some time for this important part of living.
Reprinted from College Bound: Guide for Students with Visual Impairments, by Ellen Trief and Raquel Feeney. Copyright (c) 2005 by AFB Press, American Foundation for the Blind. All rights reserved.