Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

VIEWPOINT: Say Hi in the Hallways


Here’s a familiar scene: you’re walking down the hallway and recognize someone approaching. You, a socially anxious Georgetown University student, go into panic mode. A dozen questions pass through your mind, but by the time you’ve chosen a course of action (to wave or not to wave?), you’ve made eye contact and the moment has passed. Congratulations, it’s officially weird now. 

Social anxiety is particularly pervasive on college campuses, where mental illness festers and thrives. This condition impacts roughly 25.8% of students. 

This dilemma is accentuated by the common refrain that college is the best four years of our lives. Students must set aside their social anxiety — including fears of rejection or failure — and assert control on Georgetown’s campus culture. 

College campuses are loaded with social and academic pressures, making it more difficult to adjust to our new lives as students. Students’ unrealistic expectations of the college experience also contribute to the difficulties of adjusting to campus life. 

College coming-of-age stories in television and movies dictate that you will find your new family as an undergraduate — those 10 or 20 best friends with whom you will remain close as an adult. If you’re lucky, you could even find a significant other to spend the rest of your life with. 

However, real-life shortcomings of the college experience push some students toward melancholy.

In my first semester, one of my greatest challenges was finding someone to eat dinner with at Leo J. O’Donovan Dining Hall. Humans are social animals, and eating dinner alone can be an unnatural and alienating experience. The cliche “friend group” that eats dinner together every night does not always materialize, and clubs are often confined, professional activities that fail to meet those social needs. 

The common advice first-years receive from friends and family in their first semesters is to apply for clubs on campus. I recall my father encouraging me to join one, stating the formula for friendship is “shared activity over time” — a rather bleak but not inaccurate assessment. 

However, for many students, this pathway to friendship has become unnecessarily difficult. Clubs have become barriers to entry, rather than gates of opportunity.

Exclusive clubs and Georgetown’s achievement-centric culture intimidate students and make student organizations increasingly inaccessible. Now, already at the end of my first year, clubs and established friend groups feel even less welcoming to outsiders. 

In contrast to the socializing marathon that was New Student Orientation, campus is more of an alienating place where simply saying “hello” is frightening.

Although it is important to acknowledge the validity of such social anxiety, we must also recognize where these fears extend too far: people are not done making friends, and clubs are not out to get students. 

Upperclassmen discussing friendships formed in their sophomore and junior years have made it clear to me that clubs are not the only pathway to meeting new people. Students can meet and engage with others over time through coincidence or classes.

However, these answers feel frustrating, as well-intentioned assurances about the future offer little help to those currently struggling.

Our thinking surrounding those who have yet to find their community at Georgetown needs to change. 

Many people are quick to dole out commentary but are slow to alter the status quo. Blaming club culture is, in a sense, taking the easy way out — a way that distances students from their agency to affect change. 

Georgetown is and will continue to be the society we make it, and in my experience, people have an immense capability to welcome others into their community.

I am confident that together, as a student body, we can create an inclusive, approachable community on campus. 

An easy place to start is saying “hello” in the hallways. Greetings are simple gestures that hold great potential. If students acknowledge one another, they can create an open environment that encourages everyone to break through social fears without undue pressure on themselves or others.

Jack Gigante is a first-year student in the College of Arts & Sciences.

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