Is it becoming increasingly difficult to foster authentic community on college campuses?

Posted by Julia Adams on 7/29/22 5:20 PM

Building Community

Could it be that a loss of meaningful connections is spreading like a pandemic? A feeling of loneliness is increasing among Americans; particularly hard-hit are young adults including students on college campuses. 

In this 2021 study from Harvard, Loneliness in America: How the Pandemic Has Deepened an Epidemic of Loneliness and What We Can Do About It, one key finding reveals that "43% of young adults reported increases in loneliness since the outbreak of the pandemic. About half of lonely young adults in our survey reported that no one in the past few weeks had 'taken more than just a few minutes' to ask how they are doing in a way that made them feel like the person 'genuinely cared.'”1

Men WIng Chapel talking Jordan Hughes dorm red hill 2016-5There is no denying that it has become increasingly difficult to create and foster meaningful community across the nation's college campuses. From meeting for classes online to limited community activities, and working jobs, college students cannot easily find ways to connect with their classmates.

Patrick Henry College understands the importance of living in community. From the Resident Assistants to the faculty and staff, the college seeks to be a community that is Christ-centered. And it is just that. You can often overhear friends encouraging and challenging one another throughout the day. Conversations often begin with, “How is God working in your life?” and end with, “How can I be praying for you?”

Read about student organizations on campus

But what does that mean for the incoming class who may not already have friends on campus? Is it easy to get involved in PHC’s community? The simple answer is, yes!

community fellowship meal fall retreatWith a cup of coffee in my hand, I moved away from the crowded table and began to scan the lobby. It was day two of Freshman Orientation and I could already pick out a few familiar faces. As I weaved my way through the small groups, I found some of the girls I had met earlier that day. They welcomed me into their circle, and we began chatting about the day, complementing each others’ outfits, and predicted our caffeine intakes for the semester.

It was my first experience of PHC’s community. I shouldn’t have expected any less, since community was one of the most common themes of praise I had heard from alumni and students. It doesn’t make it any easier to put yourself out there, but it is comforting to know that you are welcome.

spike ball, community sports

I remember glancing over my fellow freshmen during Orientation and seeing a lot of nervous faces. Yet, despite this, we managed to muster up the courage to go up and say, “Hi!" What seems like such a simple action opened the floodgates. I learned where they were from, what they wanted to major in, and, of course, whether we would be in the same class sections. We quickly found those we connected with the most and finished Orientation together, adding others as we went along.

Once the returning students came on campus, I found like-minded people who were just as passionate about God, school, and community. However, that does not mean that it was easy. I had to work to get better aquatinted with others, which gave me life experiences that will benefit me both now and in the future.

Orientation serviceWithin my own wing, I found kindred-spirits and a loving group of sisters who would support me as I supported them. Wing chapels were filled with laughter, prayer, and the Holy Spirit. We always checked-in on each other, genuinely asking how we could pray for each upon the conclusion of frequent coffee-chats.

As I entered the spring semester, I found those whom I connected well with and began to fill the limited free time I had with coffee-chats and lunch plans. Making connections became easier over time, and the friendships that began to bud before Christmas Break blossomed.

Now, as I prepare to begin sophomore year, I am eager to rekindle connections made and make new ones, both with upperclassman and the incoming class.

If you want some ideas to get plugged into PHC’s community, here is a short list  to get you started:

1. Get involved in Student Organizations, such as Eden Troupe, Shall We Dance Society, International Justice Mission

This is a wonderful way to get to know people you don’t normally see on a regular basis, have a scheduled meeting time, and do something non-academic.

2.Connect with upperclassman in your major and ask them to meet with you for lunch

Ask your professor to connect you with someone to chat about your major. This is a great opportunity to learn from their mistakes and discover what classes will peak your interest.

3. Schedule time to have lunch with friends

Ask a friend to have lunch with you and get to know them a bit better. If you feel a bit more adventurous, challenge yourself to sit down with people you don’t know.

4. Meet with your professors

The professors want to invest in you as a person, not just as a student. Take advantage of office hours or ask them to have lunch with you. You will be pleasantly surprised where the conversation might take you!

5.Study in public areas

While you may prefer a quiet place to study, the most meaningful conversations happen at unexpected times, usually in public areas.

6. Attend college concerts, plays, and events

Find a group of friends and go to college events. The PHC Choral and Chamber Orchestra hold a concert each semester, Eden Troupe holds plays each semester, and different organizations will hold events to foster community building.

PHC’s community is a wonderful, safe environment to spread your wings and make friends that will go through life with you.

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1 Making Caring Common is a project of the Harvard Graduate School of Education

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