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What if they do not like me? What if I do something stupid? Am I the only one feeling nervous and uncomfortable? First days at university were a trial, but also a revelation for Camilla
New beginnings are tough. To me it can feel like all or nothing when I step into a room full of new people. People that I know I have to spend the next three years or so with. People that I need to get along with. What if they do not like me? What if I sit down beside the wrong person and my potential new best friend meets someone else in the crowd and I wind up with nobody? What if I do something stupid?
When it comes to first days, I do not have the greatest track record. My first day in high school was definitely a first class example of how it is not supposed to go. I think it may have scarred me for life. First, the bus did not show and we were about to be late. Then my friend and I made a quick decision and ran back to my place to drive there on my little red scooter. To those of you who do not know: riding two people on one scooter – or even on a bicycle – is illegal in Denmark.
“Okay – show of hands: How many have cried?”.
And of course, not far from the school, we got caught. Now we were really late. And with a pretty big ticket in my hand I did not feel like tempting fate by hopping back on. I suggested that we ran. But my friend, princess-like as she was back then, refused. So I ran and she rode the scooter by my side. By the time we got there not only had the assembly begun. It had finished. And everybody had moved on to different class rooms. An embarrassing trip to the administration office and a panicked search for the right classroom later we found our new class. Me red, flushed and sweaty. Michelle looking fabulous as ever.
Okay, it probably was not due to the unfortunate first day but I never really felt comfortable in that class. And when I finally got to shift classes it seemed to be too late. Everybody in my new class had already bonded. They had found their new best friends and quiet as I am I just hung in the back waiting for an opportunity to be a part of the group, but I never really found it. I always felt like the new girl. After my first year, I dropped out of high school thinking I was incapable of making new friends.
“…there is a very specific way of bonding when you start up in a new place. It most likely involves games. It often involves beer. And it always involves a lot of not being yourself.”
That experience probably did not ease the pressure to fit in. But it has also been proven wrong many times. I have plenty of friends and as I have grown older I have come to realize that I just prefer to get to know people in a different way. A slower way. A more quiet way.
It seems to me that there is a very specific way of bonding when you start up in a new place. It most likely involves games. It often involves beer. And it always involves a lot of not being yourself. For me anyway. I am not a big fan of the games (I do not mind the beer though) and sometimes it just seems like the games determine whether you are fun or not. Whether you want to be a part of the group or not. Whether you are in or you are out. It’s a catch-22. If I join I feel awkward, and when I feel awkward I am no fun. And if I do not join and just watch from afar I feel comfortable but I am still no fun.
When I started university I considered to stay away all together. But then again. That does not make me come across great either. And also my boyfriend would not let me. Because he knows that all of this is mostly in my head. And he was right. When I got there I was not the only one hanging in the back to avoid being picked for some homemade game involving water balloons or role-playing or drinking games. There were plenty of ‘quiet’ people like myself. This was when I realized that of course I am not the only one feeling nervous or uncomfortable. Of course I am not the only one not liking the games and the expectations. That was a relief. A relief that got me through the first week and made me some new friends.
“The macbook. Shit. I had no idea how to use a macbook. I did not know how to make the ‘at’. Could I maybe quietly ask someone? But no one was close enough to hear my whisper.”
My best friend started university the same time I did. It was comforting to hear that she – the much more extroverted friend of mine – was having the same difficulties I did. She was brave enough to one day ask the girls from her new group: “Okay – show of hands: How many have cried?”. And she raised her own hand and all the rest of them followed. They all had. They all felt the pressure and anxiety. Of course they did. Why wouldn’t they?
On my first day I tried so carefully to make a good impression. It went well. I left home early. I spotted the older students with the yellow t-shirts and the signs that said ‘rhetoric’ and they pointed me in the right direction. I was so thankful to see them that I completely forgot to be shy. It was perfect. When I got there, the classroom was almost filled. For a minute I thought I was late. But it turned out everyone else was just extremely early.
I was welcomed and asked to put down my name and e-mail address on the macbook on the table in front of the class. The macbook. Shit. I had no idea how to use a macbook. I did not know how to make the ‘at’. Could I maybe quietly ask someone? But no one was close enough to hear my whisper. Could I maybe just not type my e-mail address? But then I would not get the details for our introduction trip. Maybe that would not be the worst thing. Looking back it was not as embarrassing as it felt in the moment.
But all ‘first day challenges’ seem worse than they really are. At the time, my first day challenges seemed downright mortifying. But now, a year later, it is – almost – not as painful to think about. All right, it was not that bad. We all took turns telling a little bit about ourselves to the rest. I thought this was perfect cause I am actually not that bad at speaking in public. When I heard that there had been five other ‘Camillas’ before me, I said: “My name is Camilla, you can just call me Lærke”. To me – obvious since my middle name is Lærke. To them – not knowing this – it seemed pretty random. And everybody laughed as if I had just made a funny joke.
“If all of us who prefer to hang in the back stay away, we will never meet. If we just all go – we can hang in the back together and who knows”
New beginnings are tough. They always have been. But the good news is that they are tough on everybody. Everybody is anxious. Everybody needs a friend. If all of us who prefer to hang in the back stay away, we will never meet. If we just all go – we can hang in the back together and who knows; maybe we even feel comfortable enough to join the rest when we have each other. I figure that if I can do it (and that has been proven many times now), you can do it too.
Just go for it. And remember that everyone feels like they are the odd one out.
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