STAFF OPINION: The essential craving for connection: why finding your community in new spaces matters

By Lexi Buckner | April 2, 2024 2:30pm

Lexi and friends. Photo courtesy of Lexi Buckner.

In an ever-evolving world, we all yearn for connection. That remains a fundamental aspect of the human experience. This instinctive desire exceeds boundaries, cultures and geographical locations. Human connection and companionship is a force that propels us to seek out our tribes and to forge bonds that resonate with our values, beliefs and aspirations. Whether we find ourselves in familiar surroundings or venturing into new territories, the need for community persists, serving as a beacon guiding us through the complexities of life.

As a first-year college student, moving to a new place invoked a mix of excitement and anxiety. The prospect of embarking on a fresh chapter brings with it a sense of adventure, yet it also confronts me with the challenge of establishing roots in unfamiliar terrain. Amidst the unfamiliarity, the longing for connection intensifies. We yearn to find familiarity in a sea of the unknown and long for people who understand our journey, share our passions and provide a sense of belonging in this new landscape.

Community serves as a vital lifeline in navigating the labyrinth of new beginnings. Whether it's a bustling metropolis or a quaint countryside, the human need for connection remains constant. It is in the shared experiences, the exchanged stories and the collective endeavors that we find comfort and friendship. Through community, we discover that we are not alone in our pursuits, but rather part of a tapestry woven with the threads of diverse individuals united by a common purpose.

Moreover, finding one's community in a new place fosters personal growth and enrichment. It exposes us to different perspectives, challenges our preconceptions and expands our horizons. As we engage with individuals from varied backgrounds we gain insights that shape our understanding of the world and ourselves. In this exchange of ideas and cultures, we unearth hidden parts of our identity and forge bonds that go beyond geographical boundaries.

Growing up, finding my community was hard. I was changing geographical communities every five years, and on top of that I am biracial (Black and white). I don’t look it, so I never felt like I belonged with my Black or white peers. To this day, I still feel a disconnect between the two groups of peers and myself. 

I finally found my community in my middle and high school music department and yearbook staff back at home, and I flourished. I developed a deeper understanding of myself and mental well-being, but now I find myself in a sea of people, where the structure of school no longer dictates my entire day, and I have to navigate a different rhythm. Here at UP, all I have is myself, an empty bank account and a lot of assignments to do.  What's worse is I don’t get to leave campus at the end of the day — I live here.

I have found a few good friends in my first year being here at UP that have made this experience better. We are all floating in the unknown sea together. This transition wasn’t as easy for me as I thought it would be. I'm not a really outgoing person. I'm full of anxiety and doubt, but these people push me and help me become more of a risk-taker and adventurous instead of a homebody with my nose in the books. That’s my community. It is small, but it’s all I need: people who are here and see me struggle mentally, physically and academically and will reach out to help and listen.

However, the journey to finding your community might not always be straightforward. I know mine has never been easy. It requires courage to step out of our comfort zones, to embrace vulnerability and to initiate connections with strangers. It entails perseverance to navigate the ebbs and flows of social dynamics, to weather moments of rejection and to celebrate the triumphs of genuine connections forged. Yet, among the uncertainties, the rewards far outweigh the challenges.

Here at UP, there are opportunities to find community. The university offers a variety of clubs, study groups, unions, student activities and more. So step out and do something you never did. It’s time to broaden your horizon.

Lexi Buckner is a photographer for The Beacon. She can be reached at bucknera27@edu.up.

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