This year, I am entering my third year as a Triton and yet I still feel that I just got here. Three years in and I still haven’t found my “place” or all of my “people.” I will be the first one to admit that I have blamed this feeling on UC San Diego itself: the campus is way too big, the university is not student centered enough, and, finally, I attend a school nicknamed UC Socially Dead! However, as I start this quarter, I’ve taken some time to also look at my own efforts so far: I am guilty of walking everywhere with headphones in and my head down. I sit down in a lecture hall and silently pray someone talkative won’t sit next to me. I do everything in my power to avert my eyes from those handing out flyers on Library Walk. Before I started school here, I was not at all this introverted or antisocial! So what happened?
First off, let me acknowledge that all of the points I (and many others) have made about UCSD above are valid. I do think the sheer size of the university plays a significant part. I believe that this school and the administration could work much harder on finding a balance between being a research institution and also caring about its students and their wellbeing. Also, anyone who attends a school with a “socially dead” nickname is bound to be affected by the stigma brought on by such a title. All of these are legitimate and, quite frankly, very strong arguments in my opinion. However, we cannot just admit these defeats and simply wait for the university to change itself.
Growing up, we watch movies and TV shows that advertise the college experience as something that immediately changes your life from the moment you step on campus. And for some of us lucky ones, this can be pretty true. However, for the rest of us, there’s something we weren’t told: the school is not going to create this amazing experience for you. For many of us, this is the first time in our lives where we are almost completely in control of our own lives, which can bring lots of excitement and also a lot of fear. We choose the people we are surrounded by, the major we want, the student orgs we want to join. What the downside seems to be is that if you’re like me, the sheer amount of options was so overwhelming that the most practical and comfortable thing to do was to retreat back into my shell. For better or for worse, my fellow Tritons, these are the years where we put ourselves out there! We have all the power to make these four years here something great, so why not just go for it?
This year, I have a challenge for myself and everyone else out there like me. This is the quarter that we begin to find our place in San Diego! Yes, ladies and gentlemen, we are finally going to attend that GBM we’ve been debating on showing up to for the past two years and we are finally going to get up and perform at that open mic night. We’ll attend an event or two and either stick with it or tell ourselves that even though it might not be for us, at least we gave it a shot. And remember, you are not as awkward or weird as you might tell yourself; these people and orgs will welcome you with open arms and if for some reason they don’t, well, you can go ahead and cross that group off the list. No more settling. We are going to take out our earbuds at least a few days a week, which means we will be open to conversation, take the flyer and nod like we’re totally going to that meeting, and welcome communication with our classmates! We have to refuse to give into the comfortable loneliness that this campus so easily offers us. It’s not too late to create the college life that you imagined yourself living. Whether it’s on campus or off, there is something for you out there. So, my fellow Tritons, let’s get out there and take our college experience back!