Dear Dockter Duval,
I'm pretty worried about the upcoming year and have been wondering how hard it is to meet people off at school. I was hoping you could let me know what to expect this fall.
Dear Overly Anxious,
The first couple of weeks of school can be summed up with a few simple questions ... What's your name? Where are you from? Old Dorms or New Dorms? I, for example, would have been classified as James Duval from Northern Virginia who lives in the Old Dorms - no more, no less. Seem superficial? Well, I'll kill the suspense; it most definitely is. However, much to the credit of first years, you can't blame them for asking questions that yield the most pertinent information about the person standing before them. When you are thrown into endless mingling situations, you pretty much have to stick to the essentials, as pointless as it may seem. Hopefully, you'll find a few people that want to carry the situation to a higher level and ask deeper questions such as, what dining hall do you like best? There's nothing more stimulating than talking about Newcomb's Pan Geos or "After Hours" at O-Hill. The problem is that you meet so many people in such a short span of time that it's impossible not to forget names and even faces.
As for meeting people in general, high school is far different than college. In high school, you see the same people every day at the exact same spot and a lot of socialization goes on during class. By the end of the year you have a good idea of every person with whom you shared a class during the year. At college, you get to meet a larger number of people just based on the increased student population, but the only way to do so is to meet them outside of class. The frustrating aspect of the social scene is that even if you meet someone that you gel with, it might be a while before you see him or her again unless you plan otherwise. On the upside, when you do finally hit it off with someone it is very easy to become close quickly because of how much time you spend together. Instead of only getting together Friday evening at the high school football game, you can hang out any time and any day. There's no curfew to which you must abide and there is tons of free time outside of class.
It's an extremely different feel but the main thing to remember is that in order to meet people, you pretty much have to be pro-active in the process. I've found that one of the best ways to meet people is to get involved in dorm activities, different clubs and interest groups. By participating in something a little more particular than just going to a first-year function or a random party, you'll be more likely to meet people with similar personalities. Oh, and above everything, please just be yourself. It's always painfully obvious which people are putting on the brand new college façade and those who are genuine from the start.
Dear Dockter Duval,
I've heard a lot about the fraternity and sorority scene being a major part of the social life at the University. Is it a big deal if you're in a fraternity or sorority, or does it not really matter all that much?
A little concerned,
To be Greek, or not to be Greek
Dear Tentative Greeky,
It's up to you whether or not the Greek scene is going to be a major part of your college experience. Most people that are Greek find it very comforting to have some sort of bond, regardless of its nature, with a large number of people. I have heard, having no experience with it at all, that it is similar to the kind of bond you have with teammates on a sports team or any other kind of organization. Often pledge classes, for example, get closer through dealing with similar situations - sometimes what I like to call bonding through mutual suffering. As a member of a fraternity or sorority, you immediately meet a large number of people, but the downside is that you become associated with the stereotypes that may haunt the entire group. If you are not in a fraternity or sorority it may take more time to meet such a large quantity of people, but the quality of the relationships obviously does not decrease at all. Either way, I think it is extremely important not to feel pressured into joining or not joining a fraternity or sorority. If you are patient and open-minded, you will find the type of people that you are looking for and develop your niche along the way.
Dear Dockter Duval,
My girlfriend and I are going to different schools and I am wondering whether or not we should break up. Everyone is always telling me that I shouldn't keep dating her because it might keep me from meeting the right person later. What do you think?
Dear Awfully Unsure,
First off, nobody out there can tell you what will or will not make you happy. Every relationship is different and there isn't anyone who knows all the intricacies that you might about your current situation. Although it is true that you might meet that one special person off at school, who is to say that it is not the person you are with right now? I think that the only way to really decide is to just go with what makes you happiest. If you believe that your relationship is making you feel more bogged down than anything else, then it is probably best for both of you to at least take it easy for a while. However, if you are content and she is as well, why worry?
One thing to be aware of is the fact that many people change after coming to college. It is very difficult to go to different schools and attempt to maintain the same level of commitment because the changes are taking place apart from each other. The amount and frequency of contact decreases and because of that change, you inevitably feel slightly more distant from one another even if things are going wonderfully. I am not saying that it cannot be done, but it does takes a lot of time, effort and outstanding communication.
Overall, you have to trust your own instincts and do whatever makes you happiest. If you keep the lines of communication open between you and your paramour, then you are more likely to be on the same page with one another.
(Docktor Duval can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org)