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Gwynnivere Riethoven, left, a freshman from Lincoln, and Hannah Herron, a freshman of Lincoln, relax in hammocks within the Meier Commons at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

After navigating the move-in routes, unpacking the car, squishing everything into the elevator and saying goodbye to Mom and Dad, many freshmen find themselves with a much more daunting task ahead of them: making friends and fitting in.

While new environments can be intimidating at first, upperclassmen have braved the first few awkward weeks and learned how to make the most of the endless opportunities that college offers. Here’s what area students would say to freshmen about making friends during their first year.

Barbara Barrientos

High school: Omaha South High School

College and year: University of Nebraska at Omaha; sophomore

Major: business administration

What helped me a lot in my first year was getting as involved as I could. You don’t necessarily have to join organizations or different groups on campus, just go to sporting events or welcome activities. This year I enjoyed going to “Glow at UNO,” where you go with a bunch of friends, have watercolors sprayed on you and have a good time. What I’ve learned is the value of just putting yourself out there, and not shying away from opportunities. Also in class, just introduce yourself to the person next to you. They can be a resource if you miss class, and you can build that relationship as you go throughout the semester.

Corey Benko

High school: Papillion-La Vista South High School

College and year: Nebraska Christian College, Papillion; senior

Major: next-generation ministry

I come from such a small college that you get to know everybody in the first month. You can normally figure out in the first couple weeks whether your personality goes with others, and if you’re going to be friends or not. I’d say, in general, getting involved in things is super helpful to making friends. I’d advise against finding a significant other in the first semester because they’re going to completely distract you from making other friends. For extroverts, just be yourself. For introverts, find an extroverted friend to adopt you and drag you along to everything, and you’ll make friends that way. Most importantly, I’d say be yourself.

Cameron Carney

High school: Norfolk Catholic High School

College and year: Grand Canyon University, Phoenix; junior

Major: accounting

You have to put yourself out there a little bit. I feel like my situation was a little bit different because I’m an athlete on the swim team down here. I got here and I already had about 30 people that I was close with automatically because I’m on a team with them. I think anybody can find something that they like and that they’re passionate about. There’s usually a club fair in the first few weeks, and you can easily find people that are interested in the same things as you and make friends that way. Also, just introduce yourself to people in class; I’ve met some pretty cool people that way.

Mason Coulter

High school: Elkhorn South High School

College and year: Nebraska Wesleyan University; junior

Major: history education

Try to get involved with a lot of things. Be outgoing and willing to introduce yourself to other people. People are generally pretty nice. Everyone is just waiting for someone else to take that first step. It’s awkward for everyone. Don’t be shy.

Casey Hirschfeld

High school: Papillion-La Vista High School

College and year: College of St. Mary; sophomore

Major: nursing

Go to all of the welcome events that your college has. Try your best to befriend your roommate and find those you share a common major with. Forming study groups and partnerships within that starts off as studying, but you become really close after that. Pushing yourself out of your box can be uncomfortable at first, but you’ll appreciate the opportunities that it creates later. Also, if you have the opportunity after your freshman year to join the welcoming committee, definitely do so because that is where I made a lot more friends this year and helped first-years that were in the same situation that I was in!

Carly Howrey

High school: MOC-Floyd Valley High School (Orange City, Iowa)

College and year: Morningside College; sophomore

Major: business marketing

I would say go to as many things as you’re interested in. I know in my first days of college I was like “this sounds really cool and this sounds really cool, but I’m too shy, I don’t want to meet people, or I don’t want to walk across campus.” But if you put in the effort, then you’re going to make friends. I would also say to be intentional with what you do, so when you go to class be intentional with saying hi to someone and getting their Snapchat or phone number. Maybe just ask if they want to go get coffee or just study together, and be intentional with your actions in that way. People will come around.

Jared Klahn

High school: Millard North High School

College and year: UNL; junior

Major: mechanical engineering

Find one or two clubs to join. I did that my freshman year, and I am still a part of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers at UNL. Other than that, just have an open mind. If someone reaches out to you, don’t shrug them off. I always try to keep an open mind to talking to people in my classes and saying hi to the people next to me at the beginning of each semester.

John Mulholland

High school: Worthington (Minnesota) High School

College and year: Summit Christian College, Gering, Nebraska; senior

Major: ministry

One of the main things is just to put yourself out there. I went with a few other people around campus and just talked to people we had never talked to before. Just making that choice to become friends with people that I wouldn’t normally become friends with helped me. One of my really good friends was the jock guy in high school, while I am the nerdy video game guy. It was cool to get to know the people who we wrongfully built a prejudice against in our minds, and realize that they’re not the people we strawman them to be. Also, I would say college is a really good time to network with people. Choose who you befriend wisely; there are people that are going to be really successful in life, and you have a lot to learn from them. It’s not just the idea of a future resource. It’s also the idea of befriending people that you want to be like. I think that is a lot of how we grow, is learning from people who know more or do more than us.

Lillie Norris

High school: Fremont High School

College and year: UNL; senior

Major: marketing

Start small, like the people on your floor. I went around and knocked on the doors of the people next to me. It was really awkward, but I would just knock and say, “Hi, I just want to introduce myself.” Then, later, if they wanted to go to an event, they would come to my room and be like “Hey, I was thinking about going to this, do you want to come with me?” Reaching out to people in your dorm makes it less scary, and you have people to hang out with to make the first few weeks less awkward.

Clement Shimwa

High school: Petit Seminaire Virgo Fidelis (Huye, Rwanda)

College and year: UNL; junior

Major: integrated science

It’s really just about getting out of your comfort zone. You have to confront any shyness that you may have and introduce yourself to new people. Never underestimate the power of saying hi to a new person, because it can be the start of a friendship. Be open to the opportunities that present themselves, and just go with the thing.

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