Mentoring Monday: Career Goals: More Than Meets The Eye

Career Goals: More Than Meets the Eye
Angie Grau, School of Music Mentor

Music is a multi-faceted art. As we all know, there is so much more than the black dots we read on a page. Throughout your undergraduate career here at West Chester you will get exposure to many of those facets, and it may feel overwhelming. You may feel conflicted with where your true passions lie. That is alright! It is a good thing to have knowledge in many of the areas of music, and in the long run you can only benefit from this renaissance-type of education. But, where do I go from here? Here are some tips to help you along in your journey to finding our Career goals:

1. DO NOT LIMIT YOURSELF.
This is an obvious one, but many young students at WCU do it anyways. My high school choir director—who was fantastic!—was an OBOE major. Yes, oboe. Her dream was to teach high school band. But now she teaches choir and loves every moment of it. My first co-op is a similar story, except now she teaches elementary general music. You never know what types of careers may interest you, and so you should never say “no” simply because you have never tried it or because “I’m a choir person”.

2. GO TO CONFERENCES, COMPETITIONS, FESTIVALS, ETC.
As many as you can! PCMEA and ACDA hold conferences throughout the year, and our student chapters fundraise in order to lower the prices! Becoming a member of these organizations is very easy and inexpensive. Get your money’s worth out of these memberships! Also, inquire to your studio professor about any competitions or festivals that may be going on. NATS (the National Association for Teachers of Singing) holds conferences each year in which singers can compete for cash prizes! I attended the NATS Eastern Regional Conference last year and it changed my life. The panel discussions, master classes, and workshops the members held were fantastic, and the helped me shape my career goals. Not only is travelling fun and a great stress-relief from classes, but you may learn a thing or two about yourself along the way.

3. DON’T IGNORE THE OTHER FACETS OF MUSIC.
Your diploma will say one of four things: Music education, Music Performance, Music Theory and Composition, or Music Elective Studies. But, your qualifications extend beyond one simple phrase. The experiences you have here will show you that your career is not necessarily determined by your degree program. However, in order to obtain these degrees you must take additional classes, namely: Music History, Choral/Instrumental Conducting, and Instrument-specific Pedagogy. You can easily make careers out of any of these courses. Just look at our professors! Dr. DeVenney and Dr. Yozviak are conductors; Dr. Balthazar and Dr. Onderdonk are musicologists; Dr. Rozin and Dr. Maggio are composers! Each studio professor has a great deal of knowledge regarding “the science and art of teaching” their specific instruments. This leads me to number 4….

4. TALK TO YOUR PROFESSORS.
They are here to answer your questions, about anything and everything! If you want to be just like one of them, ask them how they got there. I assure they will gladly tell you’re their story, as well as some great advice as to how to get there yourself.

5. BE PATIENT.
This is the most important one. YOU DO NOT HAVE TO HAVE CAREER GOALS RIGHT AWAY. You are a freshman in college, for Pete’s sake! I know pre-college they rush you into making decisions about your major and school and all that. But now that you’re here, you’re allowed to slow down. You do not have to know exactly what you want yet, and I don’t believe that anybody truly knows until it lands in their lap.

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Mentoring Monday: Things To Do In Philadelphia

Things to do in Philadelphia
Sammi Crabill, School of Music Mentor

Do you go to Philadelphia often? Many freshmen are interested in exploring the city. What are some fun things to do in the city? What should they know about public transportation?

One of the coolest things about West Chester is our proximity to Philadelphia. So if you feel like taking a relaxing stroll through WC’s brick sidewalks to your favorite bakery, you can! Or if you’re looking for an exciting weekend in the city, Philly is an easy trip away! There are a number of ways to get into the city, but the best option for car-less freshman is definitely Septa bus service, which runs straight through campus! The bus can take money or subway tokens, which can be purchased in the bottom floor of Sykes Student Union, beside the ATM. Then just check route times and meet Bus 104 at the bus stop right in the center of campus, across from Ruby Jones Hall. Just ride the line through to the end, which is 69th Street Transportation Center. From there, you can take the Market-Frankford subway line into the city! It really is easy but I would suggest going with someone else for the first time, especially if you’ve never used public transport before. Another option is to find an upperclassman with a car and get a ride to the Exton train station, where you can take Amtrak right into 30th Street Station which is right in Center City Philadelphia. The train is more expensive, but a lot faster and more comfortable than the bus.

There are countless things to do in a city like Philadelphia but the main draw for most music majors are the concerts. Often, students can track down cheap or even free tickets to go see the Philadelphia Orchestra or Philly Pops at The Kimmel Center in Center City. It’s a great opportunity to see professional musicians at work, which is important for those going into that field. Plus, if you know the right professors you may be able to get a backstage tour! Besides those two ensembles, you can also see the Philadelphia Ballet or numerous off-Broadway shows at the Academy of Music. If you’re looking to see more popular and indie artists, Philly is the place to go. Venues such as Union Transfer, The Electric Factory, and The Mann Center often host big-name artists and bands who are cheap and easy to go see. So snoop around online and take advantage of our location… you can usually dig up good deals and it’s a great way to get off campus for a little!

If you’d prefer not to see performances in Philly, there are thousands of other options… The Philadelphia Art Museum is a full-day activity and on the first Sunday of every month, you can name your own price for admission! Other ideas… go to the Philadelphia Zoo, walk around Fairmount Park on the Schuylkill, visit UPenn’s beautiful campus, tap into your inner foodie and explore thousands of awesome restaurants, or get lunch at the Reading Terminal Market. Even just walking around and taking it all in can take up an entire day. Philadelphia is a great way to spend your weekends and it helps you to spread your roots, make connections, and get a better understanding of the music and art scene in our area. If you’re nervous about going into the city for the first time, ask around… chances are, you’ll find someone else who knows some tips or is even going too and can help you along!

Mentoring Monday: Minors

Minors
Theresa Whitehead, School of Music Mentor

There are many minors available here at West Chester University. To give you an idea:
whitehead1
Found at http://www.wcupa.edu/_information/official.documents/undergrad.catalog/acpolpro.htm#minors

Minors offered within the School of Music include Music, Jazz Studies, Music History, & the newly added Music Performance Minor.

While classes for a minor may be difficult to fit into your schedule at times, it’s completely possible. The key is to prioritize, work with your advisor, & have the passion to complete it.

How do you add/drop/or switch a minor? There is a form that you fill out from the office of the Registrar. This form gets signed by your current advisor, future minor advisor, and department chair. Once it is returned to the office of the Registrar, your account will be changed online. After this, you follow the courses in your minor outline and work with your major and minor advisors to stay on the right track.

Pros to having a minor:

  • Being able to still do/learn about something you love without taking on a full major
  • Minors allow you to be more versatile in a job market
  • You are able to broaden your horizons

Cons to having a minor:

  • It is sometimes difficult to fit the 18 credits to complete a minor into your major schedule
  • More work to do

Ultimately, you are the one who knows your limits & capabilities. If a minor is something that interests you, talk to your advisor to see if it’s possible! Regardless, you cannot declare a minor until your second semester of college. Take your time to decide what will work best for you.

A little personal story – in the spring semester of my freshmen year I declared a theatre minor. Theatre has always been a very big part of my life & I didn’t want to let go of that (It was also an easy decision for me because I came to WCU with 22 credits I took as dual enrollment while in high school). I took one class towards that minor, joined the university theatre club, & auditioned for productions. However, the more I started volunteering with children with disabilities at school & home, the more I knew it is something I want to do for the rest of my life. I realized that I was tired of music major schedules & theatre major schedules clashing far too much for me to make my theatre minor work out. In the fall of my junior year, I talked to my advisors & decided to switch my minor to Special Education. It was a decision I am very glad I made. I sometimes find it challenging to create a schedule that fits both my major & minor requirements, but I am glad I made the decision all the same.

Mentoring Monday: What to do When Your Best isn’t Good Enough

What to do When Your Best isn’t Good Enough
David Logue, School of Music Mentor

There will be a point in just about everyone’s college career where this question will be asked from one’s self, “What do I do if my best isn’t good enough?” After pondering on this topic for a few months, I have concluded that this question is actually a contradiction of itself, thus rendering it unnecessary to continue thinking upon it, so if you’re in this situation, all hope is lost. But yet, I couldn’t shake this question from my mind, and my own inquiry still persisted of how I managed to scrape through certain classes when I had faced this exact situation.

Throughout my ponderings, I came across multiple disclaimers that need to be addressed before I continue forward, and at certain points throughout the paper. The first being, is your best, actually your best? Yes there are times when our boundaries and knowledge is tested, but I have come to the belief, concerning classes, that you have not tried your best until you have talked to the professor, studied to no end, and examined every possible perspective in the given material, and learned it as well as the back of one’s own hand. Secondly, if you think your best is your best, have you talked to your classmates to see how they have gone about the given material? And finally, if you have attempted all of this, and if you still are struggling, it’s now time to figure out what to do when your best isn’t good enough.

In order to address this, I will need to break this situation down by variables, for example, if given the equation x=y+9-b, solve for x, there are infinite amount of solutions, therefore making finding the exact solution nearly impossible, as the answers will just be an educated guess as to what the answer really is. Our given variables would be you (the student), the teacher, and the material. As we have already deduced that you have been and are trying your very best, thus, only two variables are left, the teacher and the material. Concerning the teacher, most of them will be human to you and understand if you are having trouble and assist you in your learning. Some teachers, if you talk to them about your test and explain how you got to your answer, will actually give you points back, assuming your logic is sound and you found a loophole in their question, but this is a very trivial topic in this large manner. I also must include that some teachers are very difficult, and will challenge you, and not give you any mercy. But if one was to start teacher blaming, that time spent thinking about and complaining about it, is time lost that you could be spending on the topic. And even if you feel your complaining is justifiable, remember that you cannot change the teacher. From all of this, we can then conclude that the teacher you have is what you’re stuck with, and you cannot do anything about it. Therefore leaving us only with the material as the only variable, but since you can’t change what the material is; this causes a problem as we’re out of variables to change.

The only other possible scenario of where the problem persists, are the relationships between these variables. The teacher and the material is absolute (as this is the core of the class), the teacher and your relationship should not affect your performance, and if it does, seek higher council, which only leaves the relationship between you and the material as the sole factor that isn’t absolute. Therefore, as you may have come to expect, this is where the majority of problems generate from, due to so many other variables within this relationship. And once again, in dissecting those variables, we will have to deal with the actual material (in a generic sense), study habits, and thought processes.

Now also having to assess one’s ‘best’, each person has their own style of how they personally work best. For example, from reading this paper, one could assume I have a very task oriented and chronological thought process, whereas other people will go about an issue another way. This is all to say, that in our own thought processes, we have found what we find to be the best for us personally that works almost all of the time. The key word in that statement is almost, which is when our best fails; we are unaware of how to adapt otherwise.

Before I come to a few conclusions and possible solutions of how to make your best better, I will need to make a few more disclaimers and statements. The first being, I’m assuming at this point you have been humbled in the face of failure, which is something you are not accustomed to, implying that you do not know how to proceed, which the rest of this paper may help assess. Additionally, you have to remember that sometimes it’s not always about the grade. In college, we approach a critical time of learning where what we learn will be applied to our particular field of study for the rest of your life. So if your grade is terrible, but you understand the material fully, in a strange and abnormal way, you have succeeded. And the final disclaimer is, sometimes, you are just forced to push through the dirty and grimy parts of class just to get through it.

At this final stage, I have identified all of the variables as to why your best may not be good enough, and narrowed them down to the relationship between you and the material, and your thought process about them. Since I have identified the problem, there are a few obvious solutions, which may or may not work. Sometimes, the hardest thing is realizing we sometimes get stuck in our own mindset which we think is the best, simply because it’s where we succeed the most.

Thus, the first solution is, adapt and change your mindset (a lot easier said than done) to the new scenario’s in which the material is set in, and is being taught. For example, if you work best in studying by following a sequence of logistical events, and your studying dates for a history test, those dates as a sort of rote knowledge will not be something that comes easily, so you will need to adapt your mindset of how to study for it. Bringing around my second point, when studying, there are infinite amount of ways in which to study. Since your first few ways aren’t working, adapt and change to another study method. For example, one person may love using flash cards, and others may like writing the material down multiple times. Both are great ways to approach studying, but sometimes, as stated above, you will need to adapt, as both have different implications of forms of remembering.

Unfortunately, in the time frame of the semester, only 3-4 months, you may not have time to find the perfect way in which to study for this particular class, where I will give my final piece of advice, which refers to some of the statements and disclaimers above. Sometimes, you just have to push through the class and know that this is only one class out of many you will be taking throughout your college career. And above all else, remember sometimes it’s not always about the grade so much as it is essential for you to learn the material to integrate into your repertoire or knowledge for your future career.

So what do you do when your best isn’t good enough? By now, hopefully one would understand there is no simple answer, but now can at least understand where the problems generate from, how to address these issues (with some sort of guidance), and understand that it will not be an easy task to get by. I had stated that sometimes you have to just push through, but that should only be held as the very last resort. Something to always keep in mind, is having the ability to access multiple different mind sets and always being able to change and adapt those mindsets, will be beneficial to have whether or not it will fail in the class. And just like riding a bike, once you have figured out how to use a new mindset, you always remember your other mindsets and can choose between them. Not only will different mindsets help you in just a few classes in college, but also influences a progressive mental state. So now, where your best wasn’t good enough, you can observe it from a different angle and perspective, and approach the material/class/situation with a different mindset that will deal strongly with another mindset’s weaknesses, forming a much larger strong circular metacognitant perspective, so your best can always be good enough.

Mentoring Monday: Perspective on Performance Anxiety

Perspective on Performance Anxiety
Ken Stoudenmire, School of Music Mentor

One of the great things about the music program at WCU is the number of different performance opportunities available every semester. By participating in a variety of ensemble types, we   are able to extend our musicianship to new heights, thereby getting the most out of the WCU music experience. Although having so many different performance outlets is necessary for personal development and career success, the act of performing itself can often be stressful. As music students adjusting to more and more playing situations, it is important to understand that nerves before a concert or recital is not uncommon, even for professional musicians, so there is nothing abnormal about feeling anxious prior to the event. The good news is that some pre-concert jitters can actually be a good way of focusing us for our performance. They keep us alert and energized, which can improve concentration and result in a better outcome. All nerves are not bad nerves! However, should the thought of playing in front of people cause excessive tension and stress, there are a couple of ways to help reduce the nerves.

A great way to become more comfortable in performance situations is to get into performance situations! Low-stress, relaxed playing environments, like family gatherings, church, or community ensembles, etc., can lower the stakes, helping to reduce nerves. The memory of each successful performance can build confidence going forward. The only way to get a lot of positive performances is to give yourself a lot of opportunities for positive performances. At WCU, the weekly studio hour is also a great way to gain experience playing in front of a supportive audience of your peers. By approaching studio performances with the same deliberate preparation as you would any other performance, you can get the most benefit out of the studio experience.

In addition to playing as often as possible, it is important to keep a healthy perspective on playing. Anxiety is often caused by the sense that something terrible will happen if the performance does not go well. A performer’s career is not based on one performance, whether good or bad, but on an entire playing career. Just as our overall success is not guaranteed by one good concert, in the same way, a concert that does not go as well as we had hoped does not doom our future as musicians. As your colleagues in the School of Music, we have all been in situations where a performance did not go as well as we had hoped. Keep things in perspective! No matter how a concert turns out, the world keeps turning and the sun will rise again. Just keep moving forward. Do a post-concert analysis each time you play and use the good and the bad things as ways to improve for next time.With this type of careful reflection, paired with diligent practice, the likelihood of better and better performances is increased. With each successful concert, confidence increases, which helps to reduce the fear and doubt that leads to performance anxiety. This can pay huge dividends over the course of a career.

Whether we experience many or few nerves prior to a concert, it is crucial to keep in mind that each individual performance is a single step contributing to our overall musicianship. While we give detailed focus to each of these individual steps on our path to success, maintaining the overall big-picture perspective is of utmost importance if we are to get the most out of our musical experience.

Mentoring Monday: 15 Tips and Strategies to Help Avoid the Freshman Fifteen

15 Tips and Strategies to Help Avoid the Freshman Fifteen
Phoebe Kammerer, School of Music Mentor

College is a period a drastic change in young people’s lives. Some of these changes will positively impact you for the rest of your life, but some may not be quite as beneficial. A study published in 2012 by the University of Alabama that followed 131 undergraduate students through four years of college found that 70% of the group gained weight during their college years. The average weight gain was 12 pounds, and the greatest amount of weight gain was 37 pounds. Although these statistics are not meant to scare or depress anyone, it is almost inevitable that your body will change during your time in college.
Freshman year may be the first time in your life that you are responsible for your own food and exercise choices without parents making your meals or required gym classes. You will eventually have to develop healthy habits for yourself so why not start now and avoid the freshman weight gain that is so common? This list is by no means a fail-proof guide, or have any real authority. These are simply some tips and strategies that I have learned and picked up through my years at West Chester. Learning to be healthy is a personal discovery. Therefore not all of these tips will apply to everyone, but they are things that I thought are worthwhile. So here goes!

1. Accept that things are going to change.
Whether you were an athlete, a mathlete, a drum major, or an honor roll student in high school, your life is about to change because none of you have ever been a college student before. Trying to balance classes, friends, practicing, and being on your own is a difficult task that takes time to master. Your whole life is about to change and that includes your eating and exercise habits as well as your body. The first thing you need to do is accept that this is going to be a completely new experience and may be difficult. If you decide to make being healthy a priority, strive for progress, not perfection.

2. Make exercise a part of your schedule
When there’s homework with due dates, and lessons to practice for, it can be easy to say, “I just don’t have time to work out”. But if you decide that being healthy is a priority you can almost always find time to work out. That being said, if you don’t make a conscious decision to schedule in your workouts, there is a good chance you will spend your free time sitting on your bed watching Netflix and eating junk food. Buy a planner and block out all of your required activities, and then find places to fit in working out. If you write it down, you’re much more likely to actually get up and go do it.

3. Find ways to be active even when you’re not at the gym
Even when you’re insanely busy, try to get up and move as much as you can. Although it is tempting, don’t take the elevators but go for the stairs instead. If you make it a habit, eventually you won’t even think twice before walking right past the elevator. Also, if you’re looking for things to do with friends, why not take a walk into town? Need a study break? Put on some music and dance in your dorm room. Whatever you do, get up and get moving!

4. Useful Apps
It seems that everyone is trying to lose weight now, and there are countless fitness apps out there that can be great tools. Some of my favorites, which are all free are, My Fitness Pal which is a calorie counter app, Map My Run which records how far and how many calories you burn on your walk or run, and the c25k app which trains you for a 5k race using the couch to 5k program which is great for beginning runners.

5. Never feel guilty about working out
Everyone needs time to de-stress and unwind. Exercise is a great way to do this, and gives off those awesome feel-good endorphins. When you’re at the gym, forget about all the homework you still have to do and just focus on how proud you are that you made it to the gym today. Be selfish and use your workout time for you. Everyone and everything else can wait.

6. Splurge on some cool workout gear
Whether it’s a new pair of neon Nike sneakers, or just some really awesome workout songs, treat yourself to something that will make you want to workout. If you know you have a super fly pair of new shorts in your drawer maybe that will be enough incentive to get you to the gym. Or buy the week’s hottest new song, but don’t let yourself listen to it until you’re at the gym. Make going to the gym a fun experience.

7. Find a workout buddy
We all have those days when we just do not feel like getting out of bed. Having someone to go to the gym with not only makes it more fun, but also holds you accountable. Find someone who you trust and make plans about when you will go to the gym and then hold each other to those plans. We all need a little push some days, and a friend can be just the motivation you need.

8. Take advantage of your resources
West Chester has a new student recreation center by Tyson Hall that has almost anything you could want from a gym. But this is just the tip of the iceberg. At the rec center, there is a rock wall for students to climb, several basketball and multipurpose courts that students can use, racquetball courts, fitness classes and even an outdoor sand volleyball court. On south campus there is another gym open to students that is located in the Health Sciences building as well as softball fields, hiking trails and another sand volleyball court. West Chester also has an intramural league for most common team sports. Information about all these things is on the Campus Recreation page. Check it out!

9. Change it up
So maybe you’ve found that perfect elliptical that you love and you go every other day and do half an hour. Although having a routine can help you stay motivated, it is always good to change up your fitness routine. Different activities require new things from our bodies and help our muscles continue to get stronger as well as help us not get bored. If it is a nice day instead of going to the gym, why not go for a run around campus? Or get a group of friends together and play volleyball outside. Try a new fitness class. Whatever you do, just don’t be afraid to try new things and change it up sometimes. You never know what you may end up liking.

10. Don’t get discouraged
Staying motivated can be one of the most difficult aspects of any workout or diet plan, but it is essential if it is going to be successful. Diets and workouts should be considered changes to your lifestyle, not just a three-month program. In order to stay motivated, try to set short term goals for yourself. Have you ever run a 5k? These short races are attainable for almost everyone if you put your mind to it, and give you something tangible to be proud of. Not a runner? Make a goal that you will exercise at least 3 days a week for a month, and then if you meet that goal reward yourself with a new movie or a dinner at one of the restaurants in town. The gym is always packed at the start of every semester and then clears out after the first month. Don’t let yourself be one of those people who give up.

Okay, now lets talk about food!

11. Beware Lawrence
As a freshman you will almost inevitably eat at Lawrence Dining Hall. Don’t worry, the dining hall is a great place to eat but you need to be aware of what you’re eating. Lawrence is all-you-can-eat and although at first this seems like the best thing ever, it can lead to overeating and unnecessary calories that lead to weight gain. In order to avoid this, only get one plate at a time. Don’t get everything that looks good and then sit down with four plates, but eat one thing at a time and then assess whether you are still hungry or not. Also, Lawrence tends to cater to typical college student preferences and has a lot of unhealthy fried and fatty foods. Maybe get a salad first and then go for the pizza when you’re not quite as starving so you only eat 2 pieces instead of 8.

12. Don’t keep massive amounts of junk food in your room
Let’s be honest, if its in your room you are most likely going to eat it. Having snacks in your room is great for when you’re super busy and don’t have time for lunch, or if you’re hungry at night while studying. Snacking is not bad as long as you’re not living off Ramen and Easy Mac. At the very least try keep a balanced supply of snacks. If you have a mini fridge, stock it with things like baby carrots, apples, and yogurt instead of soda. Instead of chips and candy, keep peanut butter and whole grain crackers like wheat thins. Its ok to let yourself eat junk food on occasion but don’t let your dorm room look like a 7/11 convenience store.

13. Don’t drink your calories
To be healthy it is important to stay hydrated, but beware soda and other sugary drinks. Soda, sweetened tea, and energy drinks may satisfy your craving in the moment but they have an incredible amount of calories and sugar with almost no valuable nutrients. They are empty calories. Water should be your go-to drink when you’re thirsty, and only have soda or sugary drinks as an occasional treat.

14. Find balance
This will undoubtedly be the most difficult thing you do as a college student. You are required to balance classes, sleep and a social life and being healthy is no different. Extreme diets or exercise plans may help you kick start a change in your life, but ultimately these habits are not sustainable. Being healthy needs to be a lifelong goal and should not be something you struggle to maintain on a daily basis. Be careful with extreme diets or exercise plans and don’t let it make you lose your balance.

15. Never let your weight define you
Being healthy is important, and everyone wants to feel like they look good. That being said, no one comes to college and majors in working out. Sometimes it is ok to put other things above being healthy. And if you do start to gain weight, accept that you are still the same person and talented musician that you’ve always been. Weight is just a number, and by no means defines you as a person or a student. Don’t let it ruin your self-esteem. Making the choice to be healthy is one of the best things you can do for yourself. But always remember that it should be about you wanting to do something good for yourself, not so that you look like someone else.

Mentoring Monday: Making Friends

Making Friends
Angelica Grau, School of Music Mentor

This seems like such a stupid idea for an article, doesn’t it? Making friends is easy. Well, I’ll be the first to tell you that it’s not stupid. This was the article I spent the most time thinking about and drafting over and over, because it is more difficult than you think. I don’t have word-for-word advice for you on how to make true friends in college, but I can offer you the story of my first semester.

My first semester at West Chester began with meeting my random roommate for the first time on move-in day. She was great! We had connected on Facebook over the summer to discuss typical roommate things (ie. Neatness, things we wanted to share/bring, etc.) and we were very lucky to find out that we had a lot in common. I was very excited to have a roommate that I didn’t know, because it would force me to go out there and meet new people. And that I did.

I lived in Tyson hall my first year, on the fifth floor. With Hurricane Irene impeding on our orientation weekend, all of the residents on our floor bonded very quickly. We quickly dubbed our group “Tyson 5” for very obvious reasons. We played Frisbee every single day after classes, went into town on the weekends, and spent our nights in the lounge bonding over our homework or making silly videos on our laptops.

I thought it was perfect. Who wouldn’t?! A highly diverse group of people from all over the tri-state area, all different majors, hanging out all the time. Our RA’s loved it. With my birthday being in mid-September (September 14th, to be exact….hint hint…), they surprised me by decorating my room, singing to me, and bringing me my favorite cake. It felt like everything was going great!

When classes went into full swing, I had a passing thought. What about all the people in my classes? Swope was still very new and I would make small talk with my class-mates, but nothing beyond that really. I ate all my meals with Tyson 5, would go to the gym with Tyson 5, and hang out in the evenings with Tyson 5. No biggie, I thought. These are my real friends anyways.

That idea was thrown out the window in October. I began going through a personal crisis, from having fights with my family members to wanting to change my major to feeling depressed all the time. It was one of the lowest points in my entire life. And yet, none of Tyson 5 was there for me. I felt as if they wanted nothing to do with me because I was going through a hard time. They stopped asking me to come to dinner with them and they would all go to the gym without me. It made me feel like they didn’t want me around.

Truth is, they didn’t. One piece of advice I can explicitly give you is that the walls of the dorms are paper thin. I went to one of my floor mate’s rooms to hang out, and just as I was about to knock on the door, I heard my name. They were talking about me. And not in a positive way. I was heartbroken. I thought these people were my friends. This is the icing on the cake that was my first semester. Nothing had gone right, and now I didn’t even have anyone to talk about it with. I went back to my room and cried my eyes out. Then, I made the sterling realization that these people were not my friends, and they never were. They hung around me (and each other) solely out of convenience. Once they became comfortable with each other, they didn’t have to search for true friends, because they had Tyson 5. They felt powerful since I didn’t share as much in common with them as I had initially thought, so they kicked me out of the group. Or rather, they didn’t have to. That moment made me never want to have anything to do with them ever again. And I didn’t.

I decided over winter break, after having a long talk with one of my closest friends from high school and fellow mentors, Danny O’Neill, that I needed to make more of an effort to branch out into the Swope community.

Come spring semester, I never spent time in my room. I was always at Swope practicing or in the lounge trying to meet new people. I found three amazing girls who were just as silly as me. I met people who there to lend an ear when they heard me crying in a practice room. I was hugged once a day by many different people. I found who I now call my closest friends here at WCU. And I’ll never look back to Tyson 5. Why? Because they were not my real friends.

Making friends all over again can seem really scary. You are surrounded by a completely new environment filled with people you have never met before. I encourage you to branch out as much as possible, both inside and outside of Swope. When I think about it, my friends from home and my friends from school are two completely different groups of people. But trust your gut. If you’re getting doubts about people, don’t ignore them. Don’t trust people fully until they give you reason to. And most importantly, stay true to yourself. While I was typing out this article, I realized that I became depressed because I was trying to change who I was just to remain friends with these people. You should NEVER EVER have to change something about yourself to be friends with someone. College is all about experiencing the diversity of others, and celebrating it. If you keep that in mind, you will have absolutely nothing to worry about. I promise 🙂