The first months of college can be a whirlwind ― you’ll move into a new home, start classes and meet a couple hundred new people. All the changes can be overwhelming, but you don’t have to face them alone. Every new student is going through the same thing, and making friends can be as easy as knocking on your neighbor’s door or saying hello to the person next to you in class. Here are 6 other ways to find your people at St. Edward’s in the first year of school:

1. Make the most of Anchors and Welcome Days.

Welcome Days events are designed to help you get connected to friends and opportunities on campus. You’ll move into your residence hall on Thursday (Aug. 22) and relax with your family at the Block Party that night. Starting on Friday (Aug. 23), you’ll meet upperclassman leaders and fellow new students in a group called your Herd (our mascot is a mountain goat, after all). Two university traditions ― the Legacy Walk on Thursday and the Medallion Ceremony on Sunday (Aug. 25) ― officially mark your entry into the St. Edward’s community.

The first Saturday (Aug. 24) of Welcome Days ends with Hillfest, a carnival with food trucks, games and a fireworks show. Business Administration major Lauren Louk ’21 remembers that at her first Hillfest, she was standing in line for the Ferris wheel when she met a group of girls who offered her part of their snow-cones and invited her to ride with them. “I didn’t know it at the time, but I had made my first fun memory with my soon-to-be best friend, Olivia,” Louk says. “I can thank Hillfest for getting me out of my comfort zone, a best friend, and a great way to end the summer.”

The Welcome Days activities continue through the first two weeks of school. Check out all the student organizations at the Involvement Fair (Sept. 4) and learn about academic opportunities at a day of drop-ins (Aug. 30) hosted by each school. 

2. Learn about the Austin community through service.

Through St. Edward’s Reflect, Volunteer, Engage – S.E.R.V.E. Austin – you can volunteer at the same site once a week throughout the semester. You’ll become close to your fellow volunteers and gain a deeper understanding of the issues affecting the people you serve.

“S.E.R.V.E. Austin really helped me find my niche within campus,” says Social Work major Isabel Prado ’20, who has worked with at-risk children, adults earning their General Education Diploma and the terminally ill. “My first semester I worked with a sophomore and a junior, and we really got to know each other. If I had questions or was worried about something, they gave me advice and showed me that upperclassmen were pretty cool and helpful.”

You can also sign up for a one-time volunteer project with S.E.R.V.E. 1 Day events. The First-Year Service Project is your chance to get off campus and spend a morning planting a community garden, making housing repairs for low-income residents, distributing food donations or helping with events at a youth center. You’ll get acquainted with Austin and meet fellow first-year students and upperclassman student leaders at your site.

3. Explore the natural world with the Outdoor Adventure Program.

Attend the Outdoor Adventure Expo (Aug. 28) and learn all about what the Outdoor Adventure program offers. For example, go paddle boarding on Lady Bird Lake (Sept. 1) or join a camping trip to Inks Lake State Park (Sept. 27–29). The camping trip is designed for people with little to no camping experience, says Ethan Calamia ’20, a Digital Media Management major who’s planned OAP trips. Tents, sleeping bags and food will be provided, so all you need to think about is whether to go cliff-jumping and if you prefer to sleep in a hammock or tent.

“I lead trips where no one has known each other except for the trip leaders, and by the time the weekend is over, the people on the trip are talking as if they have known each other for 10 years,” Calamia says. “Two of my good friends met on OAP trips and now they are virtually inseparable.”

4. Become a tour guide.

It’s one of the best ways to meet people ― and your training will educate you about virtually every St. Edward’s building and program. “Being a tour guide really helps because you essentially know everything about campus,” says tour guide and Orientation leader Manny Servin ’20, an International Business major. “You become an expert on the university and get to know many departments.” Pick up an application at the Involvement Fair (Sept. 4), or drop by the Office of Admission to apply.

5. Escape for a weekend.

The Freshman Escape retreat, organized by Campus Ministry, whisks you away to a Hill Country camp to reflect on your first month on the hilltop. You’ll make new friends with your fellow freshmen and learn from upperclassman retreat leaders who have been in your shoes.

“The takeaway is that you’re not alone in the transition to college life,” says Assistant Director of Campus Ministry Josh Stagni. “People have done it before, and you have fellow classmates who are doing it now, with all the associated joys, struggles and challenges.” Explore your faith (you don’t need to be Catholic to attend), hang out in small groups and relax. The Freshman Escape is Sept. 20–22, but you’ll need to apply at least a week earlier to guarantee your spot.

Isabel Prado went on the retreat at the end of her first month of school. “Towards the end of the retreat, we had a chance to share our stories,” she says. “It was good to hear that everybody came from a different background, but we were all the same in being nervous about starting college. The retreat was a good way to meet new people and have some fun to destress from first-month jitters.”

6. Just talk to people.

“My personal advice for incoming freshmen is to start a conversation with anyone and everyone,” says Lauren Louk. “You’re all in the same boat. Talking to people will alleviate your nervousness, and trust me, it will do the same for them. Everyone has the automatic response to break out their phone if they feel awkward … but don’t! Make the conscious choice to look up and smile at people.”