Part of our Get Involved blogs…

I remember when I decided to go away to college. My first two years of university had been in a city 20 minutes away from my home town. “College life” felt more like an extension of high school (except with a longer commute and a heftier tuition bill) and I yearned for change, to break away from everything I knew. Fast forward a semester and summer later and there I am sitting in my new dorm room, at a college far from home. I had hung up my Johnny Knoxville and Red Hot Chili Pepper posters, organized my clothes, made my bed up with warm flannel sheets (Oh, those Michigan winters are tough!)… so… now, what?

Weeks later after classes got started and I got into the study groove, I still found myself asking the same question: “So now what?”  Yes, I had come to get an education, but the excitement of going away was also about meeting new people, experiencing new things, pushing my limits, and getting rid of my parents!

It took a long time to build new friendships, find those new experiences and part of that process did include a sense of loneliness from time to time. This is in 2002 mind you, before Facebook, before Twitter. This is the time of Livejournal and MySpace -back when Yahoo! was the be all and end all of search browsers.  “Connections” still weren’t really made on-line but primarily formed through student organizations on-campus or in my case by hanging outside with the smokers on the side of my dorm building (even though I didn’t and still don’t smoke, these just happened to me the friendliest people!) It took some time but eventually I made friends and experienced tons of new things (e.g. concerts, random road trips, Saturday soccer games, Dungeons and Dragons (DND), kayaking, camping, hiking, and much more.) I am only 29, but often find myself thinking if I had access to social media/networking sites then like I do today, how much sooner would I have discovered my love for ice and rock climbing, as well as the cool and fun people to do these things with? Very little will top the experiences you will have by getting involved with student organizations on-campus, but we all need to get away every once in a while and engage with an even larger community- and that is why I want to highlight one of my favorite social networking sites: Meetup. is a way to get connected with local community members who are interested in doing the same things that you are. It’s simple, easy, and fast. Create an account, search on your topic of interest, join a group, attend an event.

Whether you are into cooking, polar bear diving, underwater basket weaving or activism, will keep you informed with events tailored to your interests and connected with like minded people attending them. Don’t give into that temptation to run with the same crowd you always have. Try something new, get out there! Or as would say it: “Do something, learn something, share something, change something.”

Courtney Poles is an International Student and Scholar Advisor in the Office for International Students and Scholars. When Courtney is not processing visa paperwork and sifting through e-mail, she is rock and ice climbing, cooking up a storm, and scouring the internet for the random facts sure to win her fame on Jeopardy! ® and the affection of Alex Trebek.