When you go off to your first year of college, you should have some essentials: detergent, flip-flops, Advil and five fun facts about yourself. I was constantly trying to figure out “fun” and interesting things about myself to share in the endless amounts of icebreakers A few of my go to’s are that I have a pet turtle named Poseidon, that I was an extra in the movie I Am Legend and that I attended the smallest public high school in New Jersey.
I had a graduating class of 56. And this was, I repeat, at a public school.
Coming from such a small, close-knit school to attend the whopping Syracuse University was quite a change. My lectures were bigger than the entirety of my high school, and I experienced a level of school spirit I hadn’t even known existed. I also went from knowing everybody to nobody at all.
I vividly remember my first night after moving in. I had just met my roommate, but other than that had only said hello to a few people on my floor. I spent the night in my room terrified I wasn’t going to make any friends, or that everybody already knew each other and I was out of the loop.
The first few weeks were jarring to say the least, as I discovered that my high school experience was a unique one. For the larger part of my life, I was a big fish in a small pond. It was easy to get a lead in the musical or a position on student council simply because there wasn’t any competition. I was able to leave my mark and go on my merry way.
But after graduating, I soon found myself a small fish in a big pond. It’s hard to get noticed when you’re up against thousands and thousands of people. I didn’t really know how to, either. I tried out for an a capella group and didn’t make the cut. Initially, I was surprised by the rejection, because I wasn’t used to experiencing it.
I sat in my comm classes listening to other freshman list off their internships while I hadn’t even written for my school newspaper in high school. So many students seemed to have far more experience and confidence than me—it was incredibly intimidating. I was so overwhelmed, and even started second guessing my decision not to go to a small liberal arts school.
However, all that illogical worrying eventually ended. I may have been a small fish in a big pond, but I learned ways to make the pond smaller. Whenever I saw an event that so much as piqued my interest, and I had the time to go, I made sure to attend. I started saying yes to anything and everything. An open mic night? Sure thing, I’ll be there. A dance showcase? Why not? A Tuesday night basketball game directly after my three hour lab? Of course.
My peer advisor texted me one day and invited me to one of her sorority’s philanthropy event. I knew next to nothing about Greek life at Syracuse, but after talking to all of the people there, I decided to rush. Now I’m in a sorority and have been introduced to so many people from a bunch of different houses that I can’t walk across campus without running into someone.
I joined the staff of a few campus publications and met a ton of people in my major. They all had similar interests and hobbies as well as dreams and aspirations. Knowing you’re bound to recognize someone in class is such a comfort.
Familiar faces started popping up everywhere. I would see my sisters in class, another writer in line at Starbucks or the a cappella guy with the incredibly sexy voice across the quad. Of course, there’s a downside—sometimes I’d see my editor who I forgot to email in the dining hall, or the guy who just couldn’t take the hint at the library.
I came to realize that there was a balance that I could achieve at Syracuse. I found ways to enjoy the perks of a big university while also experiencing the same tight-knit feeling I missed so much. Somewhere along the way, I created my own little niche that I found myself calling home.