People commonly associate going to school in a city with a need to be an individualist. While this is true to some extent, it can send the wrong message. Yes, you need to be independent if you want to thrive in a place like Boston, but you also need to lean on others to thrive.
When deciding where to go to school, many people warned me about how isolating city schools tend to be. As a person who has always been good at getting out there and meeting new people, I brushed off these remarks with ease. If I am being honest, however, it does not matter how outgoing or personable you were in your hometown. Being dropped into a new city is a shock to anyone and everyone. The context of who you are is dependent on where you are and — more specifically — who you know.
Upon arriving in Boston my freshman year, I did everything I could to make friends. I reached out to strangers who I found through social media, joined the school newspaper, rushed a sorority and started working as a barista. However, I still felt something was missing. I felt directionless.
Despite starting my time in Boston in the midst of COVID-19, I was actively putting myself out there. I was not falling victim to my circumstance, and even though my name was pasted to a few email lists and group chats, I still felt like I was missing a home.
I decided to join the water polo team. I played for two years in high school in addition to a year of being on the swim team. I have been on the BU women’s water polo club team for a few weeks now, and I have met people I otherwise probably never would have.
What I love about team sports is that oftentimes the only similarity between the players is in the sport itself. With social media nowadays, everything is heavily catered towards providing a feed full of people who are very similar to you. For example, so many of the women — if not all — in my sorority I knew of beforehand from social media.
This is both a good and bad thing. Surrounding yourself with people similar to you can be good because like-minded people tend to get along. However, I strive to be surrounded by people with differing interests, beliefs, lifestyles and priorities.
In high school, I never had a friend group. My network of friends was from different groups. I have found that having a variety of friends exposes you to different perspectives, which lends itself to a lot more self-awareness and growth.
Water polo introduced me to a whole new pool of people. Team bonding is so special because it feels like it is instant. In a sport where you heavily rely on your teammates, you really have no other choice. Practice is four times a week, and each time, I look forward to hearing about my teammates’ lives in between swim sets and drills.
Joining a club sport in college was one of my best decisions. It holds me accountable in terms of being a team player. I want to show up to practice not only for a great workout and to make friends, but also because I know that each time I get in the pool I improve as a player — leading to the team improving as a whole.
It has also encouraged me to improve my time management and maintain a weekly structure so I finish all of my work. For example, practice is later — usually 9 p.m. to 10 p.m. — which means I aim to finish all my assignments beforehand. This way, I am fully present at practice and not worrying about a paper or article to write. After practice, I allow myself time to wind down before bed — which usually includes showering, reading, meditating and planning for the next day.
Whether you are a D1 athlete or interested in joining a club team like I did, I highly recommend you look into the athletics department at your school. Even if you have never played a sport before, I guarantee everyone has something to gain from being on a team, especially as a college student in a city.