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    Fitting In

    Don't worry. You can make new friends—just like these students did during their first year at college.

    Amber Penney

    Do you remember that scary feeling of walking down a school hallway surrounded by total strangers? Maybe it happened when you entered middle school. Or possibly those feelings hit you hard when you started your freshman year of high school. Or maybe you've been one of those lucky people whose close friends have been with you since grade school.

    Whatever the situation, you will soon face a major change that means making a whole new set of friends. Don't panic. You can do it. But it won't just happen. It will take some effort and openness on your part.

    To give you an idea of what to expect, we talked with a few college students who remember what it was like to be where you are right now.

    Powder Puff, Anyone?

    Dedra remembers her own fears about starting college and making new friends. "I'd never really had a hard time making friends," says Dedra, a student at Trinity International University in Deerfield, Illinois. "But this was a whole new ballpark. I was intimidated when I thought about the upperclassmen. I wondered if they'd like me or if they'd think I was stupid."

    Thankfully, Dedra didn't let her fears keep her hidden away in her dorm room. Instead she took advantage of every opportunity to get to know people.

    "I tried to meet as many people as possible," she says. "I went to all of the welcome activities they offered for the freshmen and tried to talk to everyone."

    Dedra says it's so important to get involved right away. In her case that meant joining the gospel choir, the drama group and the powder puff football team. She says football was probably her favorite way to meet new friends.

    Each fall many Christian colleges form a powder puff football league for girls. Each class—from freshman to senior—may participate.

    Since her team practiced together every day for two weeks, Dedra was able to meet several freshman girls. "It was a lot less awkward than just walking up to someone and starting a conversation," she says.

    And some really close friendships can happen when you simply choose to do something fun like powder puff football. Take Dedra's friendship with Kelly.

    "We recognized each other from band practice and started talking," Dedra says. "Both of us were a little concerned about the demands powder puff was making on our time. We wondered if we'd be able to balance everything."

    Those conversations led to more conversations, which led to a growing friendship between the two.

    "During powder puff I began to make some really close friendships with the girls on the team," says Dedra. "I finally felt like I was starting to fit in."

    Not Outgoing?

    During that first week as a college freshman, Katie Hughes had to force herself to be a part of the welcome activities.

    "I actually didn't participate as much as I probably should have," admits Katie, a student at Westmont College in Santa Barbara, California. "It was hard. I just found myself longing for someone who already knew me."

    Katie says she's far from aggressive in trying to get to know people. In fact, she says she has a bad habit of waiting for people to come to her, instead of reaching out to them.

    But there was one thing Katie has never had to force herself to do: play basketball. She loves the sport.

    "I don't know what I would've done if I hadn't had basketball," Katie says.

    Being part of a team meant she had to get to know her fellow team members. Then there was the team retreat, which gave the girls an opportunity to build deeper relationships. It worked.

    "The retreat really helped a lot," Katie says, "Everyone had a chance to tell her life story, and after each girl shared we could ask her questions. Anything was fair game."

    Katie says she really appreciated getting to know her teammates on a deeper level. Even so, she still didn't start feeling like she fit in until the spring of her freshman year.

    "For me, building relationships is a slow thing," says Katie. "I have to spend a lot of quality time with people to get to know them."

    Open Up, Loosen Up

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