How To Transition From A Small College To A Big University

My home university is extremely small. It’s the kind of place where you can walk from one end of campus to the other in ten minutes and, during that walk, see at least 15 people you recognize. This small community has been such an integral part of my college experience. I’ve had classes with seven people in them, bonded closely with professors that I’ve had for multiple course, and made lifelong friends that I live with in a tiny apartment-style dorm room that always smells vaguely of the people who lived there before us.

When I went abroad I was thrown into a completely new experience. Instead of being surrounded by 1,600 students (most of whom I could name), I was suddenly drowning in 16,000 students (with only four other familiar faces from my home university). I quickly had to learn how to adapt to the larger school size, and new teaching style of abroad. By the end of my five months at my host university I came to appreciate the larger school, and here’s a few tips how so hopefully you can too!

Get involved.

It’s probably the oldest cliché about school there is, but I found it especially important at a larger school. If you don’t go to dorm events or join a club then it can be so much harder to meet people with the same interests as you. At a small school, you are constantly running into the same people, and can get to know them more easily. But, at a big school if you don’t go searching for people with your interests, you may never even cross paths with them. So get out there and join a club! Large universities have a huge array of different clubs, so you’re sure to find something you’ll enjoy.

big university Rakbo events

Stretch yourself mentally.

Along the same lines as getting involved, a big university is the perfect place to explore different things. Never really liked hiking? Go on a day trip up a mountain. Don’t enjoy Indian food? Try that local spot that everyone’s been talking about with some friends. Because most large universities abroad are located in some type of city or large town, get out there and explore the area. Knowing the area outside of the residence halls and academic buildings is essential for studying at a large school. If you never travel outside the walls of the school, it’s easy to feel trapped and overwhelmed, but having a few go-to spots in the city will give you a place to escape to and feel more comfortable.

Learn to enjoy your anonymity.

At a small school, you know everyone, and people know you. This isn’t the case at a large university, especially if you’re only studying there for a semester, and that’s not a bad thing! While I spent a lot of time in class or with my abroad friends, I had a lot more time to myself during my semester abroad. I learned how to appreciate not knowing everyone that I passed on the street, and just doing my own thing and finding my confidence. Once you stop stressing about not knowing anyone, you may just start to get to know yourself a bit differently.

big university Rakbo party

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Hannah is a senior at Wheaton college in Massachusetts. She just returned from spending a semester studying abroad in Edinburgh, Scotland (which she loved every minute of!). At school she is studying biology and is also a member of the field hockey team. Out side of school Hannah loves photography, baking, telling horrible jokes, and petting other people's dogs.

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