When I was 19, I moved 6 hours away from home to attend university in Canada’ Capital City: Ottawa. I was pretty excited for a challenging academic life but was concerned about the university social life.
You see, growing up I was always an outcast. Never got along with the popular girls, didn’t do too well with sports, and was intimidated by the smart kids. So I hung out with a rag tag group of friends from elementary school all the way to high school graduation.
I was afraid university would be much of the same. More popular kids snubbing me. More jocks running past my attempt at a jog and laughing. And even more smart kids, but this time with a larger vocabulary. Plus, this is university. This is the age where drinking skyrockets, right? I do not drink. Not even a little. Sure I tried a couple drinks to see if I liked them but no, anyways the side effects are not worth it. So what would I do in a new city, with no friends, and an intimidating atmosphere that I wanted no part of?
Well, I told myself that I would never find the university equivalent of the rag tag group I had back home without putting myself out there. I mean, outcasts are not known for finding each other unless someone makes a move. So, I signed up for the Frosh Kit and started going to orientation events and activities.
It was hard at first. Talking to people felt like making cold calls because I didn’t know where to start. I met a few people at the regular events but still could not connect with anyone the way I hoped to. I was holding back and would not do. I had to showcase who I really was and in a way that got the attention of people. That way people who like whatever quirky show I put on could show themselves and maybe start a new rag tag group for my university life.
And my plan was to dance.
Up there, that photo, that is NOT me: I do not dance or I shouldn’t, depending on how you look at it. But my big idea to sniff out outcasts was to dance at the biggest Frosh event of the week: the all-first years clubbing event. Basically a huge cabin is turned into a club for a night, complete with food, bar, DJ, and dance floor.
I part of the first group to arrive and the party started off slow. Most people went to the bar first (to beat the line-ups) and stood around drinking. Someone had to start the party, so I enacted my plan.
I started to hustle.
I learned a simplified version of the 1970s hustle in high school drama class. It was a warm up and ice breaker exercise. So I used it for a similar purpose at the Frosh event. I started the hustle in the middle of the dance floor and told two people to follow my lead. Once they had the steps down pat we started gaining attention. Eyes turned towards us and slowly people followed along. Soon we had over 100 people dancing the hustle. Definitely different than the usual bump and grind you see at clubs.
Gradually the hustle died off but not before some people came to me wanting to know where I learned the dance, why I did it, et cetera. These were the folks I spent time getting to know better. They were interested in the quirkiness I showed and wanted to learn more. And so my university group began.
This experience is now something I will never forget. So I encourage you, if you ever feel alone or of out of place – whether it be because you are starting fresh in university or there is some other change in your life – put yourself out there. Show your personality! People who share your taste of life will find you and a new community or rag tag group can begin.
Have you had a similar experience? In university or otherwise? Tell us about it in the comments!