For current Honors affinity mentors, we will be hosting a special Affinity Program Dinner on November 14th
To register and read more, visit this link
It has only been a little over two years since I started freshman orientation for DePaul, but somehow my lived reality of Summer 2020 feels a lightyear away from where I am in Fall 2022. The transition into in-person life has been a longer process than I’ve ever really appreciated. The more time passes, the more I realize the novelty of my freshman-year Zoom realm of socialization. My weirdly uncanny, remote introduction to DePaul is an experience exclusive to my class and, in hindsight, I think it was more difficult to go through than I initially accredited.
I have always been an incredibly shy person–like, afraid to ask the waiter for water levels of shyness. The idea of college, with all of its newness and unfamiliarity, was always a source of anxiety for me during high school. This pre-existing anxiety, combined with 2020’s seismic shift in the conceptualization of social interaction, naturally made my freshman year a challenge.
DePaul during this time had several different strategies to get students, especially incoming freshmen, acclimated to online learning and I attended most of their virtual events and information sessions and town halls and anything else that could be done over Zoom. And yet none of these ever seemed to help me much in terms of making friends or fulfilling the transition into feeling like a college student. Even the Theatre School-specific online activities felt vacuous, a critique less on the organizers and more on just the nature of the times in which we were all living.
There was one online group, however, that I actually enjoyed participating in and which I still remember fondly: my Honors affinity group!
I decided to join the LGBTQ Honors affinity group before freshman year in yet another attempt to make friends. Building queer community has always been important to me, having grown up with two moms and being a lifelong card carrier myself (not to brag, but I was the president of my high school’s GSA for two years, mostly because I never faced competition from the two other people in that club). In all seriousness, college is a really exciting opportunity for a lot of young queer people. For a lot of folks, depending on home life and your local community, college is the first chance for true freedom of identity. The notion of “experimentation is a trope, but one that bears some truth. One of the less-discussed consequences of Zoom school was the compromised freedom to be “out”.
It is for this reason that my particular experience with affinity mentorship feels so special. It was a chance to see people grow and learn about themselves, the first crack in the shell perhaps. There is something very precious in being the first confidant, knowing that you’re part of a space where people feel comfortable to change how they identify or express their identity for the first time. It’s also comforting to know that you aren’t alone and that there are other queer people in your class. And, looking back, it’s honestly impressive how many people I went on to befriend in that affinity group. I was looking at the slides from our introduction meeting and I recognized so many people; I forgot that this affinity group was how I initially met them! I have had the fortune of witnessing these people blossom into lovely, confident human beings; that is the gift of an affinity group.
College is intimidating, even moreso if you don’t see yourself reflected in the school community. I think this is why affinity groups are so important for incoming freshmen and I would encourage people to participate in them, if not as a mentee then at least as a mentor. It’s a great way to get involved and to encourage involvement from other students. The longer I spend at DePaul, the more I appreciate the beginning of my career here. How you start really does greatly influence how you approach your entire college experience!
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