I am not an athlete, and I am not a member of the Outing Club. This puts me in a weird position here at Bates, a small school with a plethora of sports teams and outdoorsy groups: where do I fit in?
When I first arrived at Bates, I felt lonely almost immediately. Pretty much everyone in my First Year Center was a varsity athlete, so I spent the first few days unsure of where to be when my new friends were at athletic meetings or spending time with their teammates. Despite this, I excitedly awaited my AESOP, which proved to be an amazing time and a chance to meet several of my close friends.
Luckily for me, many of these friendships stuck, and I quickly found myself in a friend group filled with fellow AESOPers. Fast forward several months, though, and I feel admittedly discontent with where I am in the social strata at this college. I have joined clubs and organizations, reached out to other groups, and been friendly in class. So why do I feel so stuck?
I don’t say this to sound depressing, or horrifically lonely, but to express my issues with the expectation that “NARPs” (Non-Athletic Regular Person, as defined by Urban Dictionary) find their friends for life by the end of orientation week. Apart from the limited days of orientation activities and AESOP, students are given only a few avenues to meet new people. This issue is multiplied by the fact that Bates is such a small school, so parties are hard to come by and the majority of club meetings are not well attended. Those who fail to magically find their friend group very early on are left struggling with where to go next.
I’m not completely sure what Bates should do to solve this, though I believe that helping to remove the stigma that students need to immediately find their people would do wonders. I also think that orientation activities should be offered throughout the first year at Bates to open up other avenues to make friends.
Finally—and this is drastic, especially considering I recoil at the prospect of fraternities and sororities—I am curious about the idea of eating houses or families, like those at Davidson College and Union College. These systems could give non-athletes a home without the drama of rushing, hazing, and gender segregation.
Bates needs to do a better job of making sure that students have ways to meet people beyond orientation week. As a non-athletic first-year, I can attest to the fact that this expectation leaves many students asking themselves where they fit in, and where on Earth their friends are.