This is it. You’ve arrived. And now that you’ve said goodbye to your parents, your orientation experience can begin in earnest. We’ve already taught you how to make small talk, but I’m here to help you actually survive NSOP only having cried yourself to sleep like, once or twice, and maybe having made a few friends.
I’m going to get this out of the way quickly, as I’m sure it’s something you already know, but it’s easy to forget in all the hoopla surrounding orientation: You’re probably not going to meet your best friend during NSOP. You might, but it’s certainly not a sure thing. And this is coming from someone who, as a senior, is living with two people he met during NSOP. If you don’t meet people who blow you away during NSOP, don’t worry. That’s why you join clubs and such. It just means you’re not someone who shines in 40-second interactions you may or may not have wanted in the first place.
All of this is to say that you should strike a healthy balance between skepticism and excitement this week. On the one hand, you’re finally in college, surrounded by people who share your interests and values. On the other, you’re still being forced to do things—some of which are helpful (like Step UP!, Under1Roof, and the session on sexual assault) and some of which definitely aren’t (like those 15 minutes with your adviser that you can never have back). But the value of NSOP really lies outside of these mandatory things. The value lies in saying yes to things you might not have considered before.
“Say yes” is an old trick of improv, but it’s something to keep in mind this week. By saying yes, you might be meeting someone great. One of my best friends and I met when she just walked up to me and started talking. If you want to hang out with someone, tell them. And if you don’t, well, it’s NSOP. The one great part about NSOP is that the stakes are low—you may never see some of these people again, so you have nothing to lose.
When you’re not seeking out cool people, use your free time to explore cool places. Skip the NSOP-facilitated tours and strike out on your own. Take a walk through Harlem. Scope out the food scene in Alphabet City. Hop on the train and go explore Greenwich Village. The best part: You might pass your would-be tour group—avoiding eye contact, lest anyone think you know the herd of wide-eyed teens following a hungover, green-shirted 20-year-old around the Lower East Side.
There’s a lot of pressure to hang out with others, but something that college really necessitates is learning to spend time with yourself. As valuable as community-building is, learning to hang out with yourself is equally vital. Many of the most important (read: boring/unpleasant) parts of school and living in the city are done alone. So don’t feel weird if you want to wander the city alone, or even if you just want to go back to your room and nap—it’s your prerogative. That’s where the beauty of starting college lies—finding your freedom within the structure, the most important skill you can learn.
So to reiterate, try to make friends, but don’t think that if you don’t immediately have a core group, you’ve somehow failed NSOP. Don’t buy into the idea that your worth in the NSOP economy is determined by how well you can make your interests and aspirations into an elevator pitch to potential friends.
Oh, and drink lots of water. You’ll thank me, eventually.