Sometimes the quickest way to bond with someone is a shared interest, whether it be a TV show, a favorite book series, similar music tastes, or a mutual hobby. Continuing Connections, implemented in January 2021 by New Student and Family Programs, is designed to jumpstart that kind of bond be- tween students.
According to the interest form, Continu- ing Connections “is designed to give USF students the opportunity to engage and build relationships amongst each other in less for- mal virtual and in-person settings.” Students can sign up for groups to hang out with others who enjoy Pokémon GO, journaling, anime, board games, or Dungeons & Dragons. There is no limit to the number of groups students can take part in.
Each group is facilitated by a peer lead- er, and meets every week for about an hour. The interest form allows students to choose whether they are more comfortable meeting online or in-person, and asks students what interests they would like to see represented in one of the program’s groups, demonstrat- ing that the purpose of the groups revolves around student needs.
Kathryn McAvoy, a freshman sociology and fine arts major, is the leader of the Con- tinuing Connections journaling group. McA- voy says the groups are not as organized or structured as students might think. Instead of a meeting with a specific agenda, students can look forward to “a group of people, who are interested in the same thing as you, who just want to come hang out and talk.” McA- voy continued, “I think that the point of a Continuing Connections group is that it is fluid, and that it can kind of take whatever form the group wants it to take.” These groups are low-pressure and less formal than clubs or other activities on campus. McAvoy light- heartedly called them “a really, really, really low-key sorority type action.”
Lara Sipes is a freshman business major and the leader of the board game group. “Stu- dents should expect to play board and card games with people and most importantly, have fun,” Sipes said. “It has been a little chal- lenging to spread awareness about the group, but involvement seems to have improved,” she continued.
The journaling group had low turnouts last semester, but McAvoy said that more people have shown interest this semester and hopes more students show up. She encourages the USF community to give one of the groups a try. “Because of COVID, and because of the last couple of years, people in all of America, but especially college students, are more sep- arated than they once were. I think the idea of communities being able to, like, be a thing again is very important because I mean we are social animals,” McAvoy said.
These groups are not made to last forever, though. McAvoy’s hope is, “that people start showing up to journaling, that they kind of you know like gravitate to people who they get along with, and then they form their own little group, and then they stop coming. That would be awesome.”