AN IUPREP OWL’S SOCIAL HOUR

The ins and outs of having a social life at iUniversity Prep and advice from veteran students!

Eve Bamber, Editor-in-Chief

Just because the Owl is a solitary creature, it doesn’t mean you have to be!

Just like our beloved school mascot, Wisely, the owl is a creature that prefers to remain in solitude. An Owl tends to spend its time inconspicuously while being a part of a close-knit group of 1 to 2 other Owls that they involve themselves with in their everyday life. Though they mostly keep to themselves, these creatures are incredibly friendly and affectionate, much like the students at iUniversity Prep! Many social students inhabit our school and many of them have experience in the unique social situation of making friends in an online environment. You’re not alone, so keep in mind that even though Owls are usually solitary creatures, it doesn’t mean you have to be one too.

 

Why should you consider working on your social life?

Social interaction plays a large role in living a healthy lifestyle, and studies have shown that its essential to both our physical and mental health. Even though technology has changed the ways we interact with each other, it doesn’t change the human need to socialize with others. 

Everyone has a different idea of what being social looks like. To you, it might mean having one or two close friends you see pretty regularly, and to others, it might mean going out occasionally with a large group of friends. There is no right or wrong answer to what a healthy social life looks like, and it depends on what is right for you and your own individual life. 

Research has shown that social interactions keep our minds refreshed, healthy and happy and can also impact our physical well-being. Several studies have examined the effects of social interactions on life length and levels of anxiety and depression, while specifically citing the effect on the hormone oxytocin. Oxytocin has been discovered to reduce pain, promote the growth of new brain cells, and ease stress. Boosting social interactions allows for an increase in this hormone’s release, benefiting your own body.

If you take time to develop relationships with your family and friends, know that it’s positively affecting your body & mind and enriching your life in these other hidden additional ways.

 

How do you even start?

In brick and mortar schools you’re constantly surrounded by familiar faces, and after seeing people from Monday to Friday for weeks on end, you’re bound to start getting to know those around you. In a virtual world, however, it’s a very different situation. Usually, you don’t get to see students’ smiling faces during class time, and if you do, it’s a rare occurrence compared to the daily face-to-face interactions at brick-and-mortar schools. So if meeting friends isn’t going to occur naturally, how do you even start? Never fear, it’s not as hard as you might think. All you have to do is remain hopeful, and just start!

First, take the time and initiative to reach out to someone! If you’re attending Live Lessons, club meetings, or even if you’re involved in chats, you’re already interacting with fellow students. Pay attention to those who share similar interests and the overall impressions you get from some of your peers. If you feel like you might have some ‘friendship potential’, go for it! Take this step by reaching out to peers on google chat with a friendly message. This could include something as simple as “Hey! I noticed you said (insert thing they said) in class today! I thought that was so cool and would love to chat with you sometime!”

Once you receive a response, continue conversing if you feel like you still want to pursue the friendship. Exchange numbers, social media, discords, etc. to connect more personally outside of the school software. The rest, my friends, is up to you!

Outside of iUPrep, it’s a good idea to get involved in your local community so you can get to know those who live near you! Volunteering and joining local programs are a great way to meet others with similar interests to you and build connections based on shared passions! That way you’ll always have a conversation starter and avoid the initial awkwardness of playing the ‘20 questions’ game as you try and get to know one another. Keep on the lookout for opportunities around you, and don’t be afraid to try something new!

 

Social Opportunities at iUniversity Prep

Even in our virtual world, there are plenty of opportunities for you to get your social fix, both online and in-person! 

iUniveristy Prep is home to many amazing clubs, several of which host events. Clubs like iHoot, Wisely’s Parliament, and others hold several events throughout the year that are open for the whole school to attend. Aside from attending the meetings of clubs like these, the events held by them boost a great sense of community and are a great way to meet others that you otherwise wouldn’t meet.

Alongside virtual opportunities, iUPrep has begun hosting “Sip and Study” sessions alongside In-Person Meet-Ups! Make sure you’re checking the Virtual Vine for specific information. If you’re lucky enough to live near one of these sessions and are considering attending, go for it! Even if it means stepping out of your comfort zone for an hour, think about the reward of the friendships you’ll make and the experience you’ll have!

 

Making Time in the Madness

It’s no secret that most iUPrep Owls have hectic schedules and crazy lives, so if you want to prioritize your social life and work on your mental well-being, you’re going to have to make time for it. Between assignments, exams, extracurriculars, and more, it can, at times, seem like an impossible feat. Making time in the madness isn’t going to be easy, but if you want to take on the challenge, here are a few things to keep in mind:

 

Sometimes doesn’t mean ALL the time: Like everything else, it’s important you maintain balance! Section off periods of time to chat over message or schedule an afternoon/evening grabbing dinner with a friend close by. A good friend will understand that you’re a busy person and will cherish the time they have with you. If you know one week you won’t have time, don’t worry, but make a mental note to find some soon!

 

Friendships are two-sided: Putting time into a one-sided relationship isn’t fun. If you have experience with this, you know how much it sucks putting time into something and getting nothing out of it. If you’re the only one working on the friendship, I hate to say, but it’s probably not the best use of your social time. Remember, your time is precious, don’t waste it.

 

Communication is key: Especially over the internet, it’s easy to take someone’s message the wrong way. Thinking they were passive-aggressive, a tad rude, or even just over the top might be wrongful assumptions on your part. However, it’s important to discuss your current situation with your friends and let them know how you’re doing. You don’t want a miscommunication to cause tension, and if you don’t have a lot of time, these small things might go over your head.

 

From the Voices of Veteran Owls

The Owls of iUP have spoken, and have shared several pieces of advice for you to take with you along your journey in all things social. Overall, Owls of all ages agree that it can definitely be difficult to navigate the world of social interactions, so pay attention to these tips that they’ve learned along the way:

 

Shivaanshi Patidar simply states, “If possible, do extracurricular activities and join clubs. It’s a great way to make friends.”

 

Yahia Osman shared from his experience, “Try to talk to people don’t be shy. iUP students are by far the nicest, funniest, and most respectful people I’ve ever met!”

 

Brooke Bolinger has become a pro at online social life! She shares, “I suggest using google chat and zoom a lot! This helps me to interact with fellow peers and friends if we can’t do it in person. I actually started a chat for my grade since we didn’t have one. It has grown over the past couple of years and it is a blast having a place to talk to lots of friends! And if there are in-person meet-ups, I always try to go to them in order to meet the friends that I have made. Lastly, I suggest interacting in Live Lesson a lot, as this helped me get to know people really well also!”

 

Amirah Santos Figueroa admits she’s still figuring out her own social life, but shares, “When you are introducing yourself in a course or in a chat, try to see if you have any similar interests with anyone! Joining clubs and working together with other students and learning more about them also helps out to meet new people. If you are a newbie like I was, don’t feel bad if you don’t click with anyone right away and don’t focus or put too much time into it, focus on your studies, and if your electives or clubs present an opportunity to meet new people and classmates, take it! It might be a bit harder online than in person, but you get the hang of it!”

 

Makenna Horne agrees with some of our other Owls saying, “Come to live lessons, join clubs, and use google chat! In live lessons, you can talk with friends a little bit before class and see who you vibe with, and maybe you can message them on google chat and see how it goes! Clubs are another great way to meet people, sometimes even face to face.”

 

K.M. sums it up well by advising students to, “Be open-minded about the possibilities of a relationship/friendship and try to see the potential of a social circle!”

 

Dawson Baker even shares his scheduling trick, “I get up around eight and work to get ahead. I end work at 4 so I can spend time hanging out with friends.”

 

Kaelin Main describes her multi-step plan to finding friends, “Step one: go to a Live Lesson. Step two: Ask around for a friend. Step three: Learn about google chat. Step four: Share thoughts with potential friends to discover a good conversation starter.  Possible step five: Repeat the plan to find more friends!”

 

These students have great advice, but keep in mind that it didn’t come without trial and error. Remember, even though it might feel like it, you’re not alone in your social struggles! Everyone has them, and it’s just a matter of figuring out what works best for you!

 

Time to Leave the Nest

We as virtual students can get very stuck in our own spaces, as the comfort of our everyday workspace is like no other. It’s easy to forget that iUniversity Prep is a real school made of real students, most of whom are looking to expand their own social circles. Though it might be a foreign experience, take this chance to challenge yourself in your social interactions. Make time to see a friend for brunch this weekend, reach out to that insightful student from your English Live Lesson, or consider joining a new club. You have more tools at your fingertips than you realize, and remember this as you choose to journey outside your comfort nest.