Don’t be afraid to skip CI activities to make your own memories

It’s safe to say that I had no desire to attend Colonial Inauguration last June. I was a homebody and the thought of staying in Thurston Hall with random freshmen, even for just two nights, made the whole idea of going to college terrifying. I have never been someone who enjoys small talk or simply sharing information about myself, so the idea of spending hours on end trying to make conversation with people I’d never met didn’t sit well with me.

As someone who doesn’t enjoy conversing with strangers, I found more than half my first day at CI to be pretty lonely. Most students who attend CI stick with the same first two or three people that they meet because that’s the safest option. Then you don’t look like that one kid who has no one to sit with in Lisner Auditorium to watch the Colonial Cabinet perform three hours later. But I didn’t feel the need to do this to feel comfortable. Although there’s nothing wrong with sticking to the first few people you meet at CI, I had already stepped way out of my comfort zone by committing to a school far away from home that doesn’t have many women of color from the Midwest like me. So in that moment, it didn’t matter if I waited a while to find people I could hold better conversations with.

Instead of trying to go to every single CI activity, new students should put themselves out there and go up and talk to different people. Then, freshmen shouldn’t be afraid to skip a few CI activities to go off and form memories with new friends.

I felt like CI wasn’t able to give me the opportunity to really connect with others unless I ventured off on my own.

More than halfway through the first day of CI, I walked into Lisner alone and overheard two girls talking. I thought they seemed like students I would hang out with because they weren’t talking about GW, which was preferable to me since I was so scared to leave home. So I overcame my fear of talking to random people and asked if the seat next to them was empty — and thankfully it was, so I forced myself into the conversation.

We clicked right away, and quickly realized that we didn’t want to sit in all of the activities. Instead, we did what most freshmen want to do — explore D.C. Although CI teaches students valuable lessons, like how to register for classes, I felt like CI wasn’t able to give me the opportunity to really connect with others unless I ventured off on my own. The conversations I had facilitated by CI activities were limited to very specific topics — like what schools students were in and what they would be studying — that were meant to help students become accustomed to GW, rather than really get to know each other.

So we decided to head out early, missing a couple of speakers, dinner and small group time, and went out for dinner in Georgetown instead. Looking back on it a year later, it’s funny that we all went to dinner together despite barely knowing one another. We went outside of our comfort zones for the night. This may sound scary, and trust me it was, but that night was worth it. Between laughing at dinner and trying to unsuccessfully sneak into a bar, I started to become comfortable with the feeling of leaving home and going to GW. My anxiety turned into an excitement for the unknown. I was finally ready.

This happened because I met people who came from completely different worlds than I did, both of them from small East Coast towns, but we all connected when we agreed to venture outside the CI schedule. This made me realize that although I am from a different place than most GW students, I still could find commonalities with others, like a dislike for superficial icebreaker activities. It doesn’t make a difference if students come from different worlds because all it takes is a small connection to help form a friendship.

My anxiety turned into an excitement for the unknown. I was finally ready.

I will always be grateful that I approached those girls in Lisner, because they ended up being friends that I’m still close with today. One of them, Sarah, became one of my best friends and my future roommate. By meeting and sharing a few memorable experiences at CI, we became close right away, allowing us to jump past the stage of superficial friendship and right into building a strong bond by laughing about our CI experience. In the end, I was incredibly lucky that I met my best friend so early. That won’t happen with everyone going to CI, but don’t hesitate to skip some scheduled activities if you find a friendly face. That person you ditch CI with may not become your best friend, but the memory will last your college career.

So when you’re at CI, remember that it’s okay to feel terrified, and even doubtful about whether you made the right choice coming to GW. But then step outside your comfort zone and try something new. Be that kid who walks into Lisner alone halfway through the day and forces themselves into a conversation, because you might just meet your best friend, or at least make your first college memory.

Saara Navab, a sophomore majoring in political science, is a Hatchet opinions writer.

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