My first days at the University of Virginia were rather uncomfortable, awkward and surreal. We’ve all been there. That unpredictable anxiety sank in — the one that comes when you move away from home into a dorm. I ate alone, I stayed quiet instead of chatting with roommates and I texted my mom much too often. On a September night during the first week of classes, I contemplated watching yet another episode of Orange is the New Black.
Suddenly I exhaled and slammed my laptop shut. “This has got to change,” I thought.
Some antsy courage compelled me to walk outside and knock on my neighbors’ door. Four happy strangers who were curious to see a fresh face welcomed me to watch old Disney movies. It felt nice to be social, but the ease was fleeting. I needed something big: Someone or some event to convince me my time at UVA would be unforgettable and unique. I longed for a silver lining that would override the clichés of neon Nike shorts, dining halls and competitive small talk.
Suddenly, the door swung open, and a tall girl leapt in. “Come on, Come on!” she yelled. “We gotta go out! Oh, by the way, I’m Kathy. Nice to meet you.”
“Go out where?” I asked.
“There’s a sports party at Sigma Pi!” she sang, prancing around the living room. I couldn’t help but laugh hysterically, enthused by her high energy. I sprinted back to my dorm to put on a full sporty ensemble, mesh jersey and all.
On the body-packed bus ride to frats, I thought about chickening out. “What do people even do at these parties? Do we need to know people to get in?” “I won’t know anyone! It’s too dangerous.” Before I knew it, we were in line on Sigma Pi’s front lawn.
A T-Pain song rattled the giant house, colorful lights dyeing each crowded room. We stood in a swarm of waving arms waiting for drinks. When we got some cups, we were disappointed to see them full of foamy beer. Frowning, I screamed, “Are you joking? I hate beer!” Kathy and I winced through some bitter sips, along with the other tentative freshman girls.
Determined to pick up the mood, I said, “f–k it!” and started chugging. People all around hooted and joined in. I got through two solo cups before stopping to breathe and laughing uncontrollably. People fed off of our crazy energy as we jumped and jangled among the mass of strangers. We became the life of the party.
That’s when I finally felt it: the spark I’d been looking for since orientation. All these partygoers finally felt like my equals, shaking the stress away in a giant, old frat house.
I wondered how many people had danced in this room, on these same tables, before I did. It suddenly made sense for me to be at UVA — thousands of students’ experiences had paved the way for my classmates and I to party in this spot. Sure, a couple brews had me feeling sentimental, but I felt like I belonged.
The next morning Kathy got my number from a mutual friend and sent the pictures via text. Now, in my third year at UVA, Kathy is my closest friend and honestly the best one I’ve ever had.
It’s strange to admit how scary the beginning of college was for me. It was full of emotions, transitions, worries and loneliness, but life begins outside the comfort zone. Now, when I feel the spirits (no pun intended) calling I listen. If I don’t like what I’m doing, I change it. If I have an opportunity, I take it. I was able to learn that one crazy night that amazing things happen in the most unexpected places — even frat house dance floors.