Small Communities on a Large Campus: How to Make UCI Feel Small
I went to a teeny tiny high school. I knew pretty much everyone I was graduating with -- most of whom I’ve known since elementary school. I remember my senior year, there was a lot of talk about how much bigger college would be -- every single class would have new people, from different ages, and different backgrounds. I was pretty excited, but when I stepped on to campus the first day, I was pretty nervous. I was surrounded by people I didn’t know, and I was overwhelmed at the prospect of trying to create a life for myself at university.
In Fall 2017, there were a total number of 29,307 undergraduates. My high school had like 1,500 students total. It’s a big difference and a huge shock for a lot of incoming students. Thankfully, my years here have taught me different ways to make such a big place feel not-so-big; so here’s some advice to help make the campus feel a bit smaller!
Try to make friends across different schools and majors.
While I was a Humanities major, a lot of my close friends were in the health sciences or social sciences. Not only was it great to meet people with such different passions, but it also helped me develop a greater appreciation for their fields and the campus as a whole. I loved hearing my friend’s stories in the lab or what cool fact they learned in their Biology lecture.
Join clubs and extracurriculars.
Choose one organization that is similar to your professional/academic interests and choose another that is more social in nature. As an undergraduate, I was a Peer Academic Advisor for the School of Humanities, a member in the Humanities Honors Program, and a Campus Representative. I take a lot of pride in the organizations I joined because I got to meet some of my closest friends through them. There’s a lot of excitement in having different friends with whom you share individual interests.
Get to know your professors and other people in your major.
In my experience, it’s been nice to be connected with the people that you spend the most time in class with. A lot of my friends developed close relationships with people in their majors by coincidentally taking the same classes and then forming study groups with them. I even had one friend whose study group would go to their professor’s office hours together like one big field trip. Having an academic network to fall back on can make learning a lot more fun and easier, too.
This is for my incoming freshmen -- if you’re living in the dorms, make full use of them.
Your RA’s job is to make your dorming experience memorable. They’ll host a lot of events for their residents and they are a great way to connect with other people in your dorm. My dorm friends are still some of my closest friends. I’ll always cherish coming to my dorm from a long day of classes and being able to hang out with my friends or study together.
I hope that some of these tips are at least a little bit helpful for you as you start your ~college experience~. One last thing I want to note is that it’s okay to feel overwhelmed or like you haven’t found your footing in the first couple of weeks or quarters. Everyone adapts to different speeds and what’s important is finding what you like -- the friends will come naturally with it. I think it’s important for students to realize that they don’t have to join every single club out there; find one or two that you really love and that you can really prioritize in your life. College life is busy -- between classes, you might also work, get an internship, study abroad. There will be tons of opportunities to meet new people throughout your entire time at UCI. So don’t fret if things don’t seem to be clicking right away.