Going on a Friend Hunt
Boone, North Carolina.
To transfer students and incoming freshmen, it's not just a small mountain town. It's a new world, streets to be explored, mountains to hike, memories to be made, and it's always tough going alone, no matter how small your town is.
The Mountain Times went straight to the experts, for advice on leaving the home sickness at home and making the Boonie transition. The key? Making friends.
For tips on how to do just that, we turned first to ASU Counseling Center's case manager and referral coordinator Kim Carter.
She's no stranger to students coming in her office and asking her just that, "How do you make friends?"
"It can be hard. Not all students and not all people are extroverts," she said, but sometimes, you need the right environment, something you're so passionate about that your interest will outweigh any shyness.
"Typically, I try to brainstorm with them about what their interests are, and then I refer them to different groups on campus to get involved, whether it's intramural sports or maybe some of the volunteer opportunities," she said.
And she doesn't stop there.
"I do often refer students to your website ( http://www.mountaintimes.com) to see what's going on," she said.
After all, activities like Green Drinks (an environmentally friendly social networking group that meets the second Tuesday of every month) we cover can connect students with people who have similar interests.
"I really encourage students to just get involved in something, anything, everything," she said.
She suggests that new freshmen fight the urge to go home "other than planned breaks."
"If you're away, it's really hard to establish and maintain relationships," she said.
For transfer students, it can be just as hard to foster and keep a social structure. For advice on off-campus friend hunts, we turned to Kendal McDevitt.
"Let me direct you to our website, transfer.appstate.edu," she said.
The website, created specifically for helping transfers connect with their new school and community, has a full calendar of events that start Saturday at 1 p.m. in the Table Rock Room of the Student Union.
"It's about getting them to connect with each other," she said.
Even with socials and bonding activities, transfers can still have trouble. That's why her door is always open.
"The very first thing I ask them is what are some of their interests," she said. "I want to find out what they enjoy doing, and then, from there, we figure out where to send them to get involved."
And you shouldn't wait.
"Our research shows that transfer students who are most satisfied with their experience at Appalachian State University and within the town of Boone are those who have actually gotten involved their first semester."
That's first semester. Not first year.
"If not, by the time they reach the end of their first semester, they're already feeling isolated," she said.
The best fix?
Volunteer work. Students with an interest in animals are given the address of the Watauga Humane Society. Students interested in teaching at-risk youth are sent directly to the Western Youth Network.
"It really depends on the student, and I think that's what we pride ourselves in at ASU," she said. "We don't take a cookie cutter approach to students ... I take the time to talk with them and know them, so I can then direct them to the resources that are most helpful to them."
Another website to check out? Offcampus.appstate.edu, and, of course, http://www.mountaintimes.com.
Here at The Mountain Times, we have our own suggestions on how you can go about your High Country friend hunt, and our lists go to 11.
1. Club Expo 2010! It happens Monday, Aug. 23, from 10 to 1 p.m. at the Plemmons Student Union. Here, you'll find information on Greek organizations, clubs, intramural sports (everything from soccer to ice hockey) and political organizations. The Center for Student Involvement and Leadership has a club directory on its website: http://csil.appstate.edu/.
2. Visit the dog park! What better way to connect with people than through your furry friend? Check out http://www.wataugahumanesociety.org for more information on the 3.5 acre park, located on Don Hayes Road off Old U.S. 421 South.
3. Check out the night life! Try Taco Tuesday at Boone Saloon ($1.25 for a beef, chicken or veggie taco) for a guaranteed crowd, trivia at Galileo's (Mondays at 8:30 p.m., you won't be a team of one for long) or the relaxed atmosphere of the Cafe Portofino. Read the Focus section of The Mountain Times to learn about upcoming bands. Dancing to music you're passionate about is a great way to connect.
4. Coffee shops! With venues downtown (think beansTalk and Espresso News) and Crossroads on campus, coffee shops aren't just for the ardent studier. Just get your head out from behind that laptop and be approachable. Say "That's a great book you're reading," and go from there!
5. Check out the Watauga County Farmers' Market Saturday mornings until noon. Here, you'll find community members excited about local produce with advice on all kinds of things to do in the High Country (and you can pick up groceries too).
6. Green Drinks! The social networking group for the environmentally savvy, it meets the second Tuesday of each month at a different venue. Check it out on Facebook.
7. Gym it up! Gyms are a great way to make friends and stay healthy. Chat over the treadmill. Moan about a particularly abusive spin class (misery loves company) or meditate together during a particularly soothing yoga class. If the on-campus gyms aren't your game (even though they have some great fitness classes you should check out) Boone has several moderately priced facilities that might be right up your elliptical alley.
8. Church! If you're religious, attending church (or an on-campus ministry organization) might just be your path, not only to spiritual fulfillment, but to friendship.
9. Volunteering! Bond while feeding the hungry, bathing dogs or building houses! Use ACT (Appalachian and Community Together) or United Way's 211 hot-line as a resource and do a double punch: Help the community and forge friendships at the same time.
10. Show your sports pride. A Red Sox fan? Wear your Boston hat. Find others as passionate about Youkilis as you are. You'll know them by their hats. Fans who cheer together bond together.
11. Visit mountaintimes.com for a full event calendar.