Tips for a Smoother College Connection

Some Tips for a Faster College Connection

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Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Want your social transition to college to feel more iPhone than typewriter? Here are some ways experts suggest to plug into new friendships without cutting off the old.

* Reach out and "friend" someone.

Organizations are a great way to make friends, but what if the notion of walking into a roomful of strangers chills you? Find the group's Facebook page, ask the president a question and -- click -- you've got a ready-made acquaintance, says Harlan Cohen, author of "The Naked Roommate: And 107 Other Issues You Might Run Into in College" (Sourcebooks, 2007). To meet people, Cohen advises entering as many rooms as possible -- real rooms, not chat rooms -- and keeping your dorm door open.

Keep your mind open, too, says Cohen, who writes a syndicated advice column for teens and 20-somethings. "Give your new friends permission to be different from your old friends, who've known you your whole life, and give yourself permission for it to take time."

* Try to live (and let live) with your roommate.

Your roommate's MySpace profile says he's an avid hunter -- and you're a devout vegetarian. Or you get to school and discover that his hygiene routine is, well, not routine. Resist the temptation to text your old friends with constant complaints. Instead, deal with the person in front of you, experts say, and try to address serious issues as soon as possible.

Tiffany Sanchez, director of new student programs at American University, reminds roommates that they can disagree and still work out a decent living arrangement. She also discourages snap judgments. "We ask students to imagine how it feels to be judged as someone you're not, so they won't do it to others," she says.

* Kick homesickness.

Recognize the signs of serious homesickness, which include stomachaches, anxiety and frequent class-skipping, Sanchez says. If you sense a problem, work quickly to move through it: Go to a club meeting or join your roommate at hers, Sanchez suggests. "The more active you are, the quicker this will pass," she says. If that doesn't help, talk to your resident adviser or someone at the campus counseling center.

* Cut the cord, or at least shorten it.

Beware the lure of cheap and easy connection to hometown friends, Cohen warns, or you won't engage enough in college life.

"Students have to set limits on themselves, which is tough to do when you're in a new and uncomfortable place," says Cohen, who advises cutting calls by about half.

Cohen notes that long-distance friends naturally decrease contact over time. "But when they see each other, it's like they were never apart. . . . College is the time to learn that you can talk to someone once every three months and still be great friends.

After all," he says, "that's how it'll work for the rest of your life."

-- Stacy Weiner


© 2007 The Washington Post Company

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