Breaking the Cocoon — My Transformation into a Social Butterfly

Photo taken from Photographer: Karolina

The summer before my freshman year at UCSD, I remember thinking about the limitless opportunities, the abundance of friends, and the crazy adventures that was yet to come. I was ready for the greatest time of my life.

My expectations were slowly shattered as I situated myself in the dorm room lifestyle. I tried hard to make friends at freshman mingling events, but felt like these friendships were filled with fake smiles and inorganic conversations. A couple weeks in, I realized that UCSD was living up to it’s street name, “UC Socially Dead”. Fortunately, I found success making friends in my classes. I soon learned this was short-lived because once the quarter was over, it was difficult to maintain contact if I didn’t have class with them in the future. Most of my time was dedicated to my studies, and I never felt that I had the time to make friends. I remember one Friday night, after finishing the last episode of Breaking Bad, I realized how alone I was. Everyone was out with their friends, but I really had no friends to turn to. This is when I told myself that next year would be different — that I would put in the effort to find ‘my kind of people’.

In my first attempt to change in my second year at UCSD, I joined the Vietnamese Student Association (VSA). I had one friend in the club who lived in my suite from the previous year so I felt comfortable attending their weekly meetings. I also joined the “Little-Big” Program, which is a program that pairs members up with a mentor from the club. On my first encounter with my mentor, I was a little shocked at how different we were. I didn’t think we could get along because of our lack in interests for the same things, so I remained distant most of the time. Although I met many nice people and formed some friendships — I still felt that I was missing that sense of belonging. By the end of the year, I had reverted back to my old habits and was disappointed with my progress.

I am now approaching the end of my third year here and boy, have things changed. I remember thinking to myself… Why don’t I like going out? Why don’t I have friends? Why am I so lonely? I knew that this was the year that I was going to change. I told myself that I wouldn’t be scared to go out late at night, I wouldn’t be reluctant to opening myself up to people, and I would try my absolute best to maintain friendships despite how tough school could get. So beginning of Fall Quarter, I tried out for Dragon Boat — a sport that I was completely new to. Let’s just say, it was one of my greatest college choices. After making the team, I saw that everyone was so genuinely friendly and kind. We all had a common goal of becoming better paddlers under one united team. For once, I wanted to hang out with people just to get to know them more. I eventually became more comfortable with my mentor from VSA! I actually looked forward to hanging out with him and my other friends from VSA to go eat, relax, and get away from school work. I also joined an organization called Design at UCSD. I applied to be on their board and was offered the Co-Community and Culture Chair Position. I was able to work with an incredible team of genuine people who help make the club possible. Weekly board meetings and GBM’s helped me get to know each of them on a personal level. Lastly, I landed a great job at the AS Graphic Studio. There, I met my awesome coworkers who I love spending time with and am able work on many projects that help benefit the school and my personal skill set! In one short year, I learned how to make friends and make the most out of my college experience academically, socially, and professionally. Although I have never been this stressed or spread so thin (like butter on toast!), I am grateful for all the friendships I have made.

I had learned a lot from my experience and hope the following will help others in similar situations make meaningful friendships and enjoy his/her own college experience.

1. Don’t be stubborn — people who are different than you can potentially be the best people in your life. Give them a chance to show you that they are kind and capable of being your friend.

2. Try to find people who love doing the same things as you. Doing things that you like, with people you like, make it all the more enjoyable and helps foster more natural, qualitative conversations.

3. Try new things! I know it sounds cliché, but you might find something you really like to do and make friends with people undergoing the same experience!

4. Surround yourself with positive people who make you love being you! If you are not enjoying your current social group, there is no need to be wasting your time with them. Go out and find the people who will love you for who you are.

5. Put yourself out there. It will take work on your behalf if you want to change. You need to actively search for things you are interested in them and join those things! Don’t stay indoors and watch Netflix! Ask someone to hang out with you! If you didn’t have a great time, that’s okay! Finding friends is a process of trial and error.

Go out there are live the life you want to live! You are in control of all that you do and the relationships that you make. Take advantage of it.