Upperclassmen: congratulations, you’ve made it. You’re no longer tripping over your feet as you try to navigate freshman year. WOW week has faded into a fever-dream memory. You have established friend groups, favorite professors, and a sleep schedule that supports your precarious balance of workload and social life.
But I have a request: don’t leave others behind to settle in your groove.
The American College Health Association did a national college health assessment for the spring of 2022 and found that almost 52 percent of their respondents were lonely, according to the UCLA Loneliness Scale (ULS3).
I’m a senior now, but I arrived at Dordt University last fall as a transfer student. My orientation consisted of a brunch with a short speech from President Hoekstra and a briefing on how to work Canvas. It lasted maybe two hours, and it wasn’t the most useful two hours of my life. I left with too many questions about where things were and not enough connections to anyone on campus.
I can only imagine how lonely that first semester would have been had I not studied journalism, forcing me to go against my instincts and introduce myself to strangers. Precious few took it upon themselves to say the first ‘hello’ to me, and not everyone has the advantage of a degree with compulsive networking.
Do you remember your first semester at Dordt? Did you sit alone in the Commons, or did you try the Turquoise Table? Did you have a way to go to Walmart? Did you binge-watch Netflix or go to events and make friends? How much easier would your life have been if an upperclassman had taken you under their wing?
When students don’t feel included, it affects every part of their lives. According to a University of North Carolina article, those who don’t think they belong often end up withdrawing — not necessarily from college, but from participation in college life. This means failing mental health and academic courses.
Maybe my request is really a challenge: Don’t center your life around yourself.
Yes, life is busy and it’s easier, once you’ve finally hit your stride after a few years at Dordt, to follow a routine. But don’t close yourself off to those who don’t yet have a community.
We are only a few weeks into the fall semester, and the campus is teeming with new freshmen and transfer students. The freshies may have had an extensive orientation week, but they don’t really know this place. All their new friends are just as lost as they are.
Many are far from home. International students are learning a whole new country and culture in addition to classroom locations. Transfer students have learned the ropes at a different institution, and now they have new hallways and faces to memorize.
Community is a beautiful thing, and many of us are blessed with the comfort of established circles. But every new student on this campus is battling uphill as they learn Dordt’s quirks, get to know the strangers with whom they now share rooms, decide their career paths, and try to find the fellowship for which every human longs.
They are bombarded with advice: “Get involved with activities,” “Join a small group,” “Make a schedule.” But why is the burden on the newcomers to make first contact? We are the old hands, the comfortable ones. Half of them probably don’t even know how to order a hot sandwich at the Grille.
I’m not saying you need to be every freshman’s best friend. We keep breaking our own record freshman enrollment numbers, and goals should be attainable, yes? But look around your area of study. Where are the new faces, looking for connection, guidance, and stability?
This year on The Diamond, we’re trying something new: every newcomer to the paper staff is assigned a returning staff member to mentor them. But not everyone writes for The Diamond (come talk to me if you want to be one of the few, the proud, the ink-stained). And not every program has integrated mentorship into their plans. Why not take the initiative yourself? You have more power than you think you do.