I’ll never forget my first day at New York University, wondering if this time I’d fit in and finally find a place where I belonged. Not only were the four years I spent at NYU the most rewarding of my life, but I discovered a whole new vibrant and confident me. This new me had been hiding beneath the tyranny of the “cool crowd” in high school, and was finally set free. It was scary and liberating all at the same time and I learned some valuable lessons about surviving freshman year of college.
Whether you’re still in high school, have just started college, or are the parent of a college student who was bullied before, here are some tips to ease the transition to becoming a university student.
- Don’t hesitate to seek out social clubs and extracurricular activities that might interest you. Start researching what the university has to offer before you even start school so that by the time you move into your dorm, you already have a feel for groups you’d like to join.
- Every dorm has an RA. It’s usually an older student in charge of watching out for residents, sort of like a young, hip school counselor who lives in your dorm. Make an effort to introduce yourself to your RA. If you’re a former victim of bullying, or felt invisible in high school, share your concerns about fitting in and ask for continued help and support.
- Most universities have dorm clubs or organizations within each dorm that plan social events and other gatherings. Find out what your dorm has and participate!
- Your roommate should be a friend and source of support. If you and your roommate aren’t getting along, and you’ve made a genuine effort to make things work, request a new roommate. No one should feel held hostage by a roommate situation. Above all, don’t think it’s a personal failure if you’re struggling with roommate issues. Some roommates click and others don’t – but it’s rarely anyone’s fault.
College can be an exciting new beginning. It’s a fresh start, and you’ve earned the right to enjoy every moment of this exciting time in your life. But if you do get bullied, document, document, document! Take detailed notes, print out evidence of cyberbullying (cruel Facebook posts, etc.) and report it to your RA. If you don’t get an immediate response from the university, keep going up the chain of command until you do! If you have to take your case to the university president, do so. If that still yields no tangible results, go to the college newspaper or even the local community paper.
Remember, there’s credibility in unity. Chances are that if you’re getting bullied on campus or in the dorm, others are too. Pay attention to who other victims are and reach out to them. A university might ignore a single student complaint, but it can be a very different story if a “coalition” of students makes a case. And the cool thing about reaching out to other bullied students is that you may end up forging lifelong friendships with people who can relate to what you’ve gone through.
Do me a favor – breathe deeply, stand tall and proud, and start your college career knowing that you’re not alone. There are people at your university who can and will be there for you. You must take the first step and ask for that support.
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