When you are old enough and mature enough to move on to college, the next big chapter in your young adult life, one of the biggest things that you will want to be looking for and trying to find is a strong sense of community in your new living and learning environment. Moving away from home for the first time can be really scary, and something that can make your first few weeks and months at college easier to handle is that presence of a strong school community around you, welcoming you and helping you to feel like part of the entire thing rather than an outsider.
Unfortunately, a strong feeling of community is always something that comes naturally to a university. The community feel of any large learning environment is entirely decided by the groups and individuals who are taking part, which means that the more your college tires to sow the seeds for a strong community, the more likely it is to succeed in its efforts. You can’t build a community with negative attitudes, it is all about coming up with great ideas that will bring people together and help them to see that they are a valuable member of their new environment. If you feel like your own college is in need of a boost in terms of moral and inclusion, then here are some handy ways to improve and make stronger a college community.
There is nothing scarier than starting a new period of your life in a place that you aren’t familiar with, and that you don’t feel particularly welcome in. To make sure that your college community feels as a strong and welcoming as possible, do your best to try to make all new students feel as part of the wider experience as possible. This doesn’t have to be in the form of anything particularly grand, more the little, simple touches that can make something feel like home. A few good ideas are to institute a ‘check in’ system in which a group of older students go around campus, introducing themselves to the freshmen, and making sure that any questions or worries they have are answered as soon as possible.
The last thing you want to do when you get to college is shut yourself away in your room with little to no contact with your fellow students. Encourage a much stronger community feel by making the avenues of communication much more accessible and readily available. Things like bulletin boards scattered around campus are a great way for people to connect. Alternatively, new student meet ups can be instituted to give them an opportunity to socialise with people who are in exactly the same situation as them. It will make them feel much less alone.
Respect and Honour Other Cultures
Be as inclusive as you can be when it comes to respecting and including the religions and cultures of the student body. It is incredibly likely that your college will be populated by a large and diverse range of nationalities and ethnicities, so it makes sense to want to be as inclusive as possible. Make people feel at home and not ostracised by encouraging them to showcase their own cultures, perhaps in the form of themed nights for students to attend, and overall just adopting an accepting and amiably inquisitive manner when it comes to finding out and embracing differing ways of life.
Connect People Through Clubs and Groups
One of the easiest and best ways to feel included in a community is to find your own mini communities within it. This can be done in the form of lots of different clubs and groups dedicated to many diverse fields and areas of life and study. From film appreciation to salsa dancing to the French language to metal music and everything in between, you should take a look at your college’s list of extra curricular societies and join some that interest you. And if there is a distinct absence of something that you are really passionate about, then why not found a society for yourself and get the ball rolling?
Alongside the clubs and societies dedicated to specific hobbies and subjects, it is also important that your college organises generic social events in order to allow every corner of the student body to attend and feel part of something special. Not every night has to feel like prom night, but putting together fun social evenings is the perfect way to make sure that everybody is integrated in to the wider college community. Of course, these kinds of events might be to everyone’s taste, but the very fact that they have the option to attend is a step in the right direction for everyone involved.
You might find that you start to feel ostracised from your college community if you are struggling with the demands of your class work. One convenient way to tackle this that can also lead to the building of meaningful friendships is joining various study groups. Not only will you be able to share your frustrations and confusions about your studies and receive support and help, but you will also be able to socialise with peers even if you don’t consider yourself a natural butterfly in that area.