A recent Harvard study suggested that developing strong social bonds helps promote healthy brain functioning and in college, a healthy brain goes a long way! However, are college friendships the only way to a successful college career?
This week, I talked with USF students Skyler Kern, a Senior Psychology major and Alex Martin, a Junior Biology (Pre-Med) major along with Digital Audio Recording Arts (DARA) Instructor Jeff Jaskowiak to find out!
How is the student social life different in college than it is in high school? Why do you think that is?
Alex Martin: […] There’s not as much exclusion. Everyone is kind of like on the same wavelength for the most part. Like, there’s still cliques and groups, don’t get me wrong but for the most part it’s not bad. […] If you want to approach somebody and talk to them they’ll be nice and sociable and talk back as opposed to high school where people will just ignore you.
Skyler Kern: […] Especially if you’re a resident, you have to be apart of the community. So, especially residents, I feel like it’s more of a family versus friends you just see everyday. […] Instead of the normal 8-3, you see them all the time.
Was it easy to acclimate yourself to the college social life or did you have to make that push?
Skyler Kern: I personally had to make the push; Elijah Anderson is the one who dragged me out of my dorm room to be more active and after that it just grew. I actually became extroverted in college; I was very introverted up until that point.
Alex Martin: I’ve always been an extrovert. I’ve always liked the social setting so the hardest part was solidifying friendships. […] I was lucky enough that I was in the Duns Scotus wing my freshman year, so I had really good friends, really close by that kind’ve just created the core group and that’s lasted me pretty much this whole time.
Did you feel encouraged to join on-campus organizations/clubs?
Alex Martin: Definitely. During my orientation, I had a couple of the people who were running the orientation my freshman year, who demanded basically, that I attend certain clubs to see if I’d like it or not. So, within my first week I probably attended 4 or 5 different clubs. […] All very welcoming.
Skyler Kern: [I] was very encouraged by a lot of the upperclassmen to join to the point where I was apart of, I think, 13 clubs my freshman year. Obviously, I’ve slowed down on that but over the years you find out what exactly are your interests and what you can do.
Were you friends with people on your floor? Did your RA’s encourage the residents to get to know each other?
Alex Martin: I got lucky; I was in Duns Scotus so I had Duns Scotus orientation. So, every freshman that was in my wing I had spent a week with before the semester even started. […] We were more of a family by the time freshman year started anyway.
Skyler Kern: We were encouraged yes, but I was defiant. Just because I was told to associate with those people I decided not to. […] And then slowly, as the years went on, the people that I was actually neighbors with my freshman year, […] ended up being my best friends, later on.
When did you feel as though the campus had become like a second home?
Skyler Kern: I got comfortable after my freshman year so like more towards my sophomore year. I’m really comfortable now, I’ve lived in the same room—this is my third year living in the same room in Tower.
Alex Martin: Coming back from winter break my freshman year I felt like I was coming home. Once I was away for a while, I came back and felt completely comfortable, no rough transition whatsoever, that’s when I was like, ‘ok, this is basically home’. […] No one in particular did anything to solidify that it just happened.
Did you develop a social and academic routine over your first weeks/months of college?
Skyler Kern: I was the kid that was in my room for like the first solid 2 months. […] So, I just existed on anything I could make with a Keurig and a microwave!
Alex Martin: I picked a schedule my freshman year that I had lunch off everyday. So, I had a group of friends that I ate lunch with everyday in between classes and then I had class again after dinner so I would eat dinner with all of them […]. Then, I would go up to where I lived and hang out in any room but my own. So, whether I’m watching movies with one group, playing video games with another, watching Game of Thrones with the next group, I was hanging out with somebody.
Was it important to take time for socialization and relaxation? Was it difficult to find the time?
Skyler Kern: It wasn’t so much difficult as something that I had to adjust to. My freshman year I didn’t think I’d need it for the first better half of the first semester and then after that I set aside time. Now, it just happens naturally where you see someone and then you catch up with them or they’re like, ‘Hey, do you wanna go to lunch?’ and you go to lunch because you have a free half hour. It just happens a lot more randomly and not as structured as you want.
Alex Martin: I was really structured about getting my eight hours of sleep when I first started. […] I was in my room, away from everyone else, by 10:30 P.M., I had about an hour and a half to myself: homework, study, unwind, go to sleep, be up by 9:00 A.M. Now I just kinda go wherever. If I’m in bed by 10:00 P.M., cool. If I’m in by 4:00 A.M., alright, whatever happens. I’m not as worried about alone time to unwind just because everyone’s family here. So, I’m basically relaxed wherever I go.
Next, up is DARA Instructor Jeff Jaskowiak. Jeff started out as a freshman at Joliet Junior College (JJC) but later transferred to Lewis University where he studied Music Education. As I talked with him, I learned that his experience was vastly different from Skyler and Alex’s.
How was the student social life different in college than it was in high school? Why do you think that was?
Jeff Jaskowiak: My whole experience probably is not typical in some ways. When I was in college, I worked all the time. So, my social life mostly was with the people that I was going to class with. Towards the middle of college, when I was at Lewis, the only probably social thing that I did was I was apart of this Christian coffee house on Saturday nights [from 7:00-9:00 P.M.]. So that was like my one night a week where I actually did something besides work or school.
Was acclimating yourself to the college environment something that was important to you? Did you try and make a push?
Jeff Jaskowiak: Well, I have friendships that have still lasted through those college years. See, when you’re playing music, you’re just playing with ensembles and you’ve gotta become friends because you’re trying to get the music right. […] So, again, probably like I said, the thing that was non-oriented was probably that coffee house thing that I was involved with. […] The rest of the time, I was really focused on getting great grades and getting my work done. And being a musician, you’re practicing a lot so there’s a lot of alone time. But, I was settled with it. I didn’t really feel like left out or like I was missing things.
Why do you think your focus was solely on academics and not socialization?
Jeff Jaskowiak: My degree was in Music Education and so all through high school and college, I knew that that’s where I was headed. And so, music is a stern taskmaster it doesn’t give its fruits away very easily, you really have to work at it. […] And so, you’re involved in a lot of personal practice and study but you’re also playing with different kinds of ensembles and it is really time consuming. But that was the goal in and of itself. […] My social life was what I could get at. But that focus of that coffee house group was really kind’ve my outlet.
How did you get involved with the Christian coffee house?
Jeff Jaskowiak: Well, it was really funny because I was going to this guy’s bible study at his house and it was getting extremely packed […]. And so, he was looking for a different place where we could meet. And so, there was this church that was right across the street from Joliet Central—it was called First Baptist Church—and they had this really nice facility over there. So, the pastor at the time said, ‘sure, you can use this space’. […] It started with the bible study and it still had a section every week where they studied the Scripture and stuff but there was a lot of singing.
Would you like to see more students involved on campus?
Jeff Jaskowiak: It would be nice if there was someplace, even if some of these areas that are real close, created like a hangout place, like I said, a coffee house. We were actually looking at one [building] straight down Taylor Street. It turned into a realty place but I was working with some people trying to say, ‘hey, let’s try to turn that into a coffee house.’
College is a great time to forge friendships seeing as there are so many outlets to do so! Yet if you come into college academics-focused, that’s great too! You have your whole life ahead of you; focus on what’s going to make you happy and successful right now!