I’ve learned a lot in the past four years. I started off at Northeastern University in Boston and hated New England. It felt like an extension of my upper middle class suburban high school and I was the weird girl, yet again. When I transferred to USF it was nice to be back West (I’m from Seattle) and around like-minded people that seemed to appreciate my eccentric-ness. My college experience has taught me a lot about the world around me, but also about myself. The most important thing I learned is that your life and your experiences are what you make of them. This is my advice:
1) Make friends that are different than you. There’s no reason to pigeonhole yourself in your social life. I’ve formed incredible friendships with people it seems I have nothing in common with. It forces you to get outside your comfort zone in a really important way. Since starting college I’ve befriended sorority sisters, Evangelical Christians, even a pageant girl. Through these relationships I learned we had a lot more in common than I anticipated and we had A LOT of fun together. You may see a new side of yourself come out. Give yourself the freedom to be friends with all kinds of people. You won’t learn anything hanging out with people that are exactly like you.
2) Live outside of San Francisco and your hometown. I never studied abroad, but last summer I did two internships in New York City. Moving to a new place forces you to be resourceful and adaptable. Try finding a normal grocery store in New York (my tip, take the subway to Trader Joe’s in Brooklyn). Finding friends without the aid of school or orientation requires that you take risks and experiment in your social life. Living in New York, my socialite wannabe roommates dragged me to a hip club in Chelsea where I was the only girl with visible tattoos, glasses and a Padawan braid. I felt completely out of my element, but that’s important sometimes. Plus, everyone in the club got to see and envy my smooth dance moves.
3) Get a tattoo (if you want one). I’ve talked to so many people about how badly they want tattoos, but they’re too scared to get one. They spend years thinking about it and never take the plunge. Do it! I know the arguments – my parents will kill me, what if I regret it, what about when I get old? Well according to a study at the Pew Research Institute, the Millennials (that’s us) are the tattoo generation. Their study says that 38% (almost four out of ten) of us have a tattoo. Out of those of us that are already tattooed, 31% have one tattoo, 50% have two to five tattoos and 18% have six or more. When mom and dad ask how you’ll look with tattoos when you’re old and saggy, let them know that your peers will look exactly the same.
4) Join a club or organization. I know it sounds cheesy, but I felt fairly isolated on this campus as a transfer student before I started working for the Foghorn. It’s nice to have a place on campus, an activity and a group of people you feel connected to. When I walk around campus with other friends that transferred, they’re astonished by the amount of people I know. All of that is due to this paper. Beyond the social benefits, working for the Foghorn has allowed me to create something that I think is important. It gives me a platform to write about my interests and share cool things that I like with my peers. And I mean, without the Foghorn how could I write a 1,000-word article about myself? On campus groups need all the help they can get.
5) Become a regular. Find your favorite places around the city, coffee shops, video stores, restaurants, and visit them often. The relationships you make with the people you interact with daily can transform your experience living in a city. I make a point of going back to the same places and having real conversations with the people that work there. I’ve spent hours goofing around with Jeremy and Ben at Lost Weekend Video in the Mission and my barista Brett at Four Barrel directed me to his website to watch a video he made of himself dancing to “Born in the USA” in bright orange underpants. Find an independent record store, coffee shop or bookstore and make connections with the people that work there. They might just be the coolest people you meet here.
6) Experience the city. There’s SO MUCH going on here. Explore all of what San Francisco has to offer. There are great restaurants, bars, stores and coffee shops. People travel from all over the world to visit this place (I know because I live two blocks from Alamo Square Park and I see the tour busses every day). Play tourist for a day – go visit the different neighborhoods. Get a dim sum in China Town, a slice of pizza in North Beach, some fish and chips at Fisherman’s Warf and burrito from a Mission taqueria. Hit up City Lights Books, SF MOMA, Paxton’s Gate and the Ferry Building Farmer’s Market. Go see live music! This city has a history of spectacular live music (Bill Graham, anyone?). There are venues all over with bands playing every night of the week. Get out of the Haight Street, Clement, USF area and discover all the great places to hang out.Get some help from SFist or Yelp! first.
7) Utilize the fresh start. This isn’t high school anymore! Take advantage of this new beginning to be whatever and whoever you want to be. If you want to change your personal style, go for it. If you want to explore new types of music, this is the perfect opportunity. Play around and experiment. Don’t feel tied down to any particular “identity.” I think in a larger sense this ties back to not pigeonholing or sterotyping yourself. You can like indie rock, hip hop, yoga, bike riding, coffee, Anthropologie, live music, classic rock, reading, sports, the Gap, vintage, cooking, break dancing, reggae, jogging and contemporary feminist theory all at once! People are complex with lots of completely unconnected interests. That’s cool! That’s what makes us fun and exciting! You don’t have to be the indie rock, coffee shop, record store girl that only wears vintage. You don’t have to be the sporty dude that only talks about girls and beer. Be whoever you want to be. Be yourself.