Today we hear from rising senior, Sydnee Burnette! I hope you are encouraged and challenged by hearing her journey of learning to step out of her comfort zone during her freshman year.
Transitioning from high school to college was hard for me. My life changed in a lot of ways, and even though I like to think that I’m good at adapting to change, this was on a different level. For the first time, I was living away from my parents and little brother. I had to share a tiny dorm room with a roommate and walk down the hall to use the bathroom. I was starting to take college classes that were much more difficult than the schoolwork I was used to. Plus, I had class with hundreds of strangers and professors who flew through lectures faster than I could write. I have a terrible sense of direction and I didn’t know where anything was on campus. (I literally used Google Maps to get everywhere!) All that to say, I had a rough time during my first two weeks at Tech. All the big changes made me nervous, anxious, worried, and very homesick.
In my many attempts to get used to my new college life, I began to cling to the people and things that stayed constant. Almost everything I did during my first two weeks at Virginia Tech was with my roommate and long-time best friend, K (I’ll just call her K for privacy reasons). We walked to class together, spent free time together, ate meals together, and studied together. We also had a few other friends from high school who lived in another dorm, so K and I even visited them together. I didn’t go anywhere new unless it was with one of these friends. I was comfortable around them, and being with them made it easier for me to adjust to my new way of living at college.
At first, staying in my comfort zone of friends did make it easier. As those first weeks passed, I got used to walking around campus and going to different dining halls. I learned where all of my classes were, and I even started making a few new friends in class. It was nice to have gotten over that initial wave of anxiety that had hit me at the beginning, and spending all my time with K was a great help with that. At some point, though, I wanted to try doing some different things that my high school friends didn’t necessarily want to do. I had been wondering what it would be like to go to club interest meetings and see some campus ministries, but I was still uncomfortable to go alone. One night, K agreed to come with me to a large group worship service at BCM. We found the building, went inside, and were immediately greeted by two of the nicest girls (who I now know as my friends Dani and Sarah!). They invited us to come sit with them, and my nervousness faded away as we all talked and waited for worship to start. By the end of the evening, K and I were invited to come to bible study a few days later, and I was glad to feel so welcomed into this place that I had only just discovered.
Later that week, K and I went to a club interest meeting together, and I also wanted to go to the bible study at BCM. K didn’t want to go with me that night, so I realized that if I went, I would have to go alone. Going alone was the last thing I wanted to do, but I was genuinely curious about what bible study at the BCM would be like. I finally made the decision that I would go, but I was extremely nervous. I didn’t know what to expect, and I didn’t have my friends to comfort me. But I went anyways. I walked at a quick pace and gave myself a mental pep talk as I went inside the building. I didn’t want to chicken out. I went to the room labeled “Green Family” (BCM bible study groups are called “family groups” and they are all named by colors) and saw the door was closed. I took a deep breath to keep my heart from pounding out of my chest and opened the door. Without hesitation, the whole room turned and shouted “HEYYY!!” There were about 15 people, and they all kept talking and laughing as they pulled up a chair and made room for me around the table. They asked about me and how I found the BCM, and they were all so friendly and fun to talk to. Just like my last visit to this building, I felt my anxiety fade away as I spent my evening with this new group of people that would soon become some of my best friends.
After bible study with Green Fam, I went back to my dorm room and told K all about it. I remember feeling so relieved that my choice to step out had paid off. From then on, I made an effort to go to BCM worship and bible study every week. I made tons of friends there, grew my faith in God, and had lots of fun college adventures. My experience helped mentally encourage me to step out of my comfort zone in other ways, too. I joined the Rotaract Club (it’s a club centered around community service – related to the Rotary Club), and I met one person in my classes who became one of the best study partners and truest friends I have. And all that was just in my first semester! I learned that even though it can be nerve-wracking and scary sometimes, it is both rewarding and freeing to step out of your comfort zone and try something new. That being said, if you are a new freshman or transfer student at Virginia Tech (or anyone who struggles to step out of that comfort zone), here are my suggestions for you:
- Don’t be afraid to start up a conversation with a stranger in class. I have made some great friends from my classes, and they all started with a simple conversation about our names, hometowns, and majors in school.
- If you’re even slightly interested in a club or student organization, go to a meeting! Clubs are always welcoming new members each semester, and most organizations would be glad to see you join one of their meetings. If you’re unsure about meeting times or locations, try to find the club online or on social media and send them a message.
- Don’t just confine yourself to the high school friends who came with you to VT (or even just the ones you meet on your hall). It’s okay to stay in that comfort zone at first, but try to branch out as soon as you can! Meet people in your residence hall, in your classes, on the bus, or at a club meeting. You could find that one of your future best friends is just a short conversation away.
- Don’t automatically think that you’re bothering someone else. This is something I do a lot. In most cases, though, it’s simply not true. Most people are willing to talk to you, and on the off-chance that you are bothering them, they will let you know.
- Don’t be discouraged if a new conversation goes nowhere or if you decide you don’t really like the new thing you tried. This will happen at some point, but don’t let it get to you! There are over 30,000 students and about 800 student organizations at Virginia Tech. There are plenty of other new people to talk to and clubs to try.
- Remember that you’re not alone. Tech usually has around 7,000 incoming students each year, and everyone is in the same boat. Everyone wants to make friends, and everyone wants to enjoy their college experience. If I (me, the most nervous, introverted freshman out there) can work up the courage to step out on my own, then you can, too!
Looking back, I’m so glad that I finally made those decisions to break through my comfort zone and try some new things. If I had waited until later, there’s no telling how many opportunities I would have missed out on. Keep that in mind as well – when you look back on these decisions to step out of your comfort zone, will you see missed opportunities, or will you see great friendships and memories?