Connecting with others on campus is part of the college journey. After more than a year of pandemic protocols, we may need a little help along the way. We’ve got some advice. (Photo by Danny Damiani)

Story by Karina Herrera ’22

For any incoming first-year, starting the journey as a college student can be both exciting and nerve-wracking. Throw in a year of mask-wearing, social distancing, and other pandemic protocols and you’ve got a recipe for added anxiety.

As the beginning of the new school year draws closer, you might be unsure of what to expect or worried about making friends. That goes for not only first-years but also for all those sophomores who spent their first year remote. I’m here to help. Here are nine things that helped me meet new people and form lasting friendships when I arrived on campus three years ago.

1Take advantage of Welcome Week: Welcome Week is as it sounds—a time when you and your fellow first-years will move into residence halls and be welcomed to campus. There are a myriad of activities over several days that are specifically designed to help you meet new people and aid you with the transition to college life at Lawrence. Engaging in these activities will provide you with an easy opportunity to start making connections with other first-years before the rest of the student body arrives on campus. You can ask someone from one of these activities to grab a bite to eat in the Warch Campus Center or go for a walk along the river or even tour the education buildings together to figure out where your classes will be held.

2Attend residence hall activities: A fun way to get to know the students in your residence building is to go to the events hosted by your community advisor (we call them CAs). In the dorm’s lobby during their night shifts, they will set up movies, have various game nights, order pizza, and sometimes make pancakes. There is no work involved for you. Just enjoy. All these activities are opportunities to mingle, and the best part is, you don’t even have to leave the building!

Student organizations offer a great way to meet new people. Here, students participate in a hike during Camping 101, an event hosted by the Lawrence University Outdoor Recreation Club in May. (Photo by Danny Damiani)

3Join student orgs: There are more than 100 student-run clubs and organizations on campus, all looking for new members. Click here for the list at Lawrence.edu. Want to learn how to swing dance? Or do you really like improv theatre? Itching to go on a camping trip? There are clubs for all of these interests, but on the slight chance that Lawrence does not already have the club you’re looking for, no worries. You can form your own, and it’s really simple! Here’s a link for a how-to guide; on the page it’ll tell you to review the Student Handbook and then you simply have to fill out a club recognition request form. Joining a student org is a sure way to follow your passions and connect with other Lawrentians. You may even learn new skills along the way.

4Go to sporting events: Even if you are not athletically inclined, you’re in luck—cheering on the Vikings only requires your enthusiasm. Even if you have no idea what’s going on, it’s OK because there is usually someone sitting near you who is in the same boat. Making connections through shared confusion is a fun way to start those friendships while also showing support for the athletes. And as a captain for the women’s basketball team, I can attest to how much we appreciate it when we see the bleachers filled with students cheering us on. Lawrence provides a free shuttle service to take you to and from the athletic facilities, but here’s another tip for forging connections: Skip the shuttle and walk to the Banta Bowl or Alexander Gym. It’ll be quality time with your new friends.  

5Visit the Downtown Appleton Farmer’s Market: This weekly event is a great way to spend a Saturday morning in the fall (or summer if you stay on campus) with a friend. Beginning at 8 a.m. and ending at 12:30 p.m., College Avenue from Appleton Street to Drew Street is closed off to vehicle traffic so vendors can sell a variety of goods. You’ll find everything from fresh produce and baked treats to handmade items and artwork—often while listening to live music. So, grab your roommate or a new acquaintance and take a stroll to experience one of Appleton’s summer and fall favorites.

Lawrence students volunteer at Feeding America in January 2020.

6Get out and volunteer: Volunteering is an awesome way for students to connect. Make friends while helping to educate kids, comfort animals, or save the planet. Lawrence’s Center for Community Engagement and Social Change (CCE) works hard to educate students about their role as citizens in their community while also promoting a wide range of volunteer opportunities. The CCE is not the only an avenue for volunteering but it’s a great resource to meet others along the way.

7Go to the movies: Seeing a good movie is always a great option when building new friendships. The campus movie theatre on the second floor of Warch Campus Center features free movies for students every Friday and Saturday night during the school year. You can even fill out an online form to make suggestions for specific movies that you want to see, and there’s free popcorn. It’s a fun way to spend a weekend night and connect with others. Did I mention the free popcorn?

8Embrace the arts: I hope you’re not too attached to your socks, because they will be knocked off while watching a performance in the Conservatory, whether it’s our own students or visiting artists. Attending events in the Con with your new friends is a must. This is one of the true perks of going to Lawrence. We have a world-renowned music conservatory right here on campus. Not many schools get to say that. I’ve enjoyed watching many of my friends perform in various ensembles and have had my ears blessed while listening to music recitals. And there are amazing theatre and dance performances, not to mention opera and other musical feats. Music is quite literally happening all the time on this campus.

The Trout Museum of Art, located adjacent to Houdini Plaza in the heart of downtown Appleton, is a short walk from campus.

9Get outside the Lawrence bubble: There doesn’t need to be a special occasion for you and a fellow newcomer to step off campus and explore Appleton. College Avenue has a comprehensive selection of fun downtown spots, including coffee shops, restaurants, boutiques, art and various crafting stores, and so much more—even I haven’t seen it all and I’ve been here for three years. But it’s not just shops. Check out the various trails and parks within walking distance of campus (the Lawe Street Trestle Trail is my favorite). Also, be on the lookout for student rush tickets for shows at the Fox Cities Performing Arts Center (nothing wrong with cheap tix to a touring Broadway show), book a tour of the History Museum at the Castle or visit the Trout Museum of Art, all short walks from campus. These are just some of the great ways to get to know other students who also are new to Appleton.

Bonus tip: Follow Lawrence and Appleton social media pages. Whether it’s on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or the Lawrence website, it’s a good idea to stay connected to your new community. Keep tabs on news updates, insights into your fellow students and the Lawrence faculty, and details of coming events on campus or nearby.

Karina Herrera ’22 is a student writer in the Office of Communications.