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One of the most challenging parts of going to college is feeling like you belong. You're away from home, maybe for the first time. You're around a whole new group of people in an entirely new setting. Maybe you're also on your own for the first time. There's a lot to take in and a lot to adjust to. In this episode, Erica goes through ways you can work to make sure you feel like you belong and have a place!

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0:00 - Introduction
1:29 - Joining a Student Group
3:58 - Getting Support
5:38 - Networking
7:44 - Conclusion

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In college, I learned so much that I still use today. But you what I also spent a lot of time doing that was just as important? Eating pizza and cooking with my friends. This, plus other outside-of-college activities I did helped me find my place in college and build a sense of community or the feeling of belonging within a peer group. While there's no one way to do this, we're going to tell you how to find your place in college and set yourself up for long term success through extra experiences and networking. Hi, I'm Erica Brozovsky and this is Crash Course: How to College, a Study Hall series presented in partnership with Arizona State University. Today, we're talking about how to find your place in college.

Making the transition to college or back to college, if you're returning to school after a period of time, isn't easy. But getting involved in extracurricular activities, like joining a club, can help you make new friends and colleagues. Some of these people will be students, and will be going through similar things to you. Others will be professionals in the field you wanna work in, and meeting them while you're a student will give you a chance to get advice about what skills and activities to pursue to make yourself as competitive as possible in the job market after you graduate. And whether your campus exists in the virtual or the physical world, most colleges have a little bit of something for everyone. We'll hit some of the highlights here, but there are so many opportunities, depending on your college and what you're into.

For instance, I worked at the mall, was a part of the Taiwanese-American Students Association and cooked with my friends in our terrible dorm kitchen. Life if you're interested in political science, you many have the option to get involved with student government, which is made up of students who are elected or volunteer to oversee activities, programs and initiatives to get students more involved across the college. Or, if you're looking to be more physically active, you can also get involved in intramural sports like volleyball or basketball. Intramurals are recreational sports organized at your college. In order to sign up, check out your campus rec center or your school's website. You can even sign up for some groups before getting into campus, like living-learning communities or LLCs- special interest groups that allow you to meet with other students in that residence hall that have a common interest. Sometimes these groups involve taking special classes or working on projects with the students you live with, and this can be a way to form deeper connections with your classmates. Your school might offer LLCs for students interested in social justice, business, or politics. If your college offers this experience, you typically have to apply or indicate you want to participate in a living and learning community when you're figuring out your housing. And most colleges these days offer opportunities for multicultural organizations and activities on campus. These are often known as identity based student groups and they exist to form a place for students with similar shared experiences to meet, hang out and support one another. This might be a club for native Francophones to hang out and speak French, or a group of first generation college students hang out and talk about their experiences with people who understand their background. There are also clubs for students to join based on shared racial and cultural experiences. Most schools have student associations for people of Black, Latinx, Asian American and Pacific Islander backgrounds. You can also find groups for international students, refugees, veterans, students within the LGBTQIA+ community, disabled students, and more. But organizations and groups that are run through your college aren't the only options when you're looking to find your place in college. You could actually venture off campus or out into the world. If you find yourself wanting to spread your wings and find a group outside of your college existence, consider a community group, which exists to benefit the area you live in. These can be especially useful if you have moved away from home to attend a college in a new town. Joining a community group can help you get acquainted with your new area, discover new interests, and network with like-minded people. Other groups you can find outside of the college may be faith-based, needs-based, social or rooted in the arts, like dance, poetry and film or Kiwanis clubs, which focus on community service and offer opportunities to engage in the local community while giving back to others. So there are a lot of options to help you build that sense of community and find your place in college. As you participate in each group or club, try to reflect on what you're learning and how each experience aligns with your interests and values. Finding yourself takes time, but it helps to take stock of each new endeavour and explore how it makes you feel and whether it fits into your future. Finding yourself might also be a team effort. Luckily, there are staff members at each college who can help you find groups and clubs to join and support you in navigating other aspects of college life. Line, an academic advisor- who we talked about in more detail in the last episode- is responsible for helping students meet the requirements to earn their degrees. They're trained to help you schedule classes each semester, talk to professors, find internships and more. There are also resident advisors, or RAs which are students who are employed by the school to live in the residence halls on campus. They can sometimes answer you academic questions but RAs are specifically trained to help you resolve issues with your roommates, get involved on campus, access resources to work through mental or emotional issues and socialize with your peers. In fact, RAs are usually your peers. They're often students farther along in their studies who have experienced similar issues and can provide support. Many college campuses make academic support services available to all students. Student services staff can help you access tutors, study groups, peer advisors and other resources you need to succeed. Sometimes these are also called student support or student success advisors. Your school will also offer disability services, which are designed to protect disabled students from discrimination and make sure they have equal access to educational resources. Common accommodations provided by many schools include designated note-takers, assistive listening devices, and extended time for assignments and exams. While services will vary by school, every school should have some type of centralized resource center that any student can access. These services are often funded by student tuition so don't hesitate to make use of all available services. You're literally paying for them, you might as well use them. You can also rely on faculty members to challenge you academically, present research opportunities, and assist you with applying what you're learning in class to real-world situations. And your instructors can even help you identify the best way to study and prepare for exams, which sets you up for success throughout your college experience. In fact, getting to know the faculty and other on campus contacts is a great way to build our network for our college years and beyond. Networking is one of those buzzwords that everyone seems to have feelings about, but really it's just about establishing and then building the professional relationships we intend to have with people in our career field. Now I love talking to and getting to know people, like if you want to have a 45 minute conversation about hopes and dreams and our favourite TikTok trends, I'm there. But for lots of people networking can be kinda intimidating. But it's important because it's setting the groundwork for the professional and often personal relationships you'll have in your working life, if not in your entire life. Thankfully, there are some ways to make it simpler. That brings us to another part of networking that can be scary- emails.

Let's go to the thought bubble. Figuring out what to call people you're trying to network with, like instructors and professors can be harder than it seems. You'll likely be taught by many different people with different qualifications. Take our friend Dan. One of Dan's professors has a PhD and prefers to be addressed as 'Doctor'. Others might prefer 'Ms.', 'Mr.', 'Mx.' or simply 'Professor'. When in doubt, go for something more formal or respectful but regardless, your instructor will usually cover how they wanna be addressed on the first day of class or in an introduction email, so be sure to pay close attention and use the correct title. And if they don't, you can always ask. Likewise, if you have a preferred name you'd like your instructor to use, share it when you introduce yourself in class or via email. Dan's given name is different than what he likes to be called, so at the start of the course he asks his instructor to take note of his preferred name and address him accordingly throughout the semester. Many schools have options for students to indicate their preferred names on official lists, like course rosters. If you reach out to the instructor or anyone you want to connect with via email, remember to be professional and coherent. Compose a formal, succinct email, then proofread it to correct any typos or grammatical errors. This means you should start with a subject line that says what the email will be about. You should also start with a formal greeting like 'Dear (black)' or 'Hello' and briefly explain why you're reaching out to them. And if you're emailing your professor, it's a good idea to include the name or section of your course. Instructors aren't the only people who can be a part of your network, but they are excellent resources. Consider asking them for tips in staying ahead in your reading and assignments because your instructors have firsthand knowledge about how students can excel in their class. Thanks, thought bubble.

Finding your place isn't just about finding your passions and choosing your path. It's also about being comfortable where you are, knowing where and when to ask for support and feeling safe and affirmed. The better you feel about making new friends and getting involved on campus, the better you'll feel about finding your place in college, your community and the world.

Thanks for watching this episode of Crash Course: How to College. This series is part of an expanded programme called Study Hall. Crash Course is partnered with Arizona State University to launch Study Hall on it's own channel. Check out where you'll find more tips about navigating college, choosing a major, plus foundational courses connected to college credit courses that students struggle with most in their first two years. See you over there!