Making friends in a new environment can be intimidating under any circumstances, let alone on a campus with more than 10,000 students.
But what some may see as an intimidating challenge, College of Charleston freshman Rex Bingham sees as an opportunity to push himself outside his comfort zone and to develop interpersonal skills.
“I try to meet at least one new person every hour,” says Bingham, as he waves to a familiar face while sitting outside City Bistro on a recent afternoon. “I just really enjoy meeting new people, simple as that. The more personal connections I make at CofC, the faster and more effectively I can integrate myself into the Charleston community.”
And unlike most resolutions that are abandoned within days, Bingham has so far held true to his goal and introduced himself to nearly everyone he’s come into contact with.
Making new acquaintances both inside and outside the classroom is one of the best ways for new students to establish a sense of connection to the College and the surrounding community, says Jill Caldwell, associate director of student life.
“Getting involved in student activities and student organizations or attending events enables students to establish a sense of belonging on campus,” says Caldwell. “A student’s involvement outside the classroom helps them make friends, learn valuable leadership skills and cultivate school pride.”
For Bingham, a student in the Honors College, meeting new people is one way of practicing for life after college.
“I plan on majoring in international business and Spanish, so hopefully putting myself into uncomfortable situations where I have to meet new people will only prepare me further for my future endeavors,” he says.
While many students advance from elementary school to high school with the same group of peers, Bingham was forced out of this path at a young age when he transferred from a relatively small private school to one of the largest high schools in South Carolina, Dorman High School near Spartanburg.
“On my first day of school I only knew one person, my older brother, Jack,” recalls Bingham. “I knew my only option was to come out of my comfort zone and make new friends. By far the best decision I’ve ever made.”
And the connections that Bingham has been making on campus since the first day of this semester have already proven valuable. After being on campus for just 19 days, Bingham had already formed a close enough bond with fellow freshman Sam Slater that he was invited to stay at Slater’s home in Tallassee, Tennessee, during the campus evacuation for Hurricane Dorian.
Jack Bartlett is a freshman in the Honors College at the College Charleston. A native of Bristol, Tennessee, he is active with the Student Government Association, Charleston Miracle and the Entrepreneurship Living Learning Community.