Getting involved can bring you friends at MU

Thursday, July 28, 2011 | 12:01 a.m. CDT; updated 10:21 a.m. CDT, Sunday, August 7, 2011

COLUMBIA — The most meaningful friendships in your life might be forged in college. 

Future bridesmaids, best men, lifelong friends and future spouses might be right here at MU, waiting for you to meet them. But you won't find them watching TV in the residence halls. 

Here is a collection of ways MU students have made — and kept — friends in college.

If you are among the 23 percent of MU students from out of state, you could arrive in Columbia not knowing a single soul. Even if your home is closer and half of your high school class is at MU, it's always good to make new friends. 

Start simple: Get to know your roommate. A roommate can introduce you to others and help you navigate the campus.

But the world of friends is bigger than a room in a residence hall, so don't worry if you and your roommate don't click.

Don't be afraid to knock on your neighbors' doors and introduce yourself. Chances are, they're looking for friends, too.

Based on your choice of dorm, you may be involved in MU's Freshman Interest Group, or FIG, program. A FIG is a group of new students with the same major or interest area.

You will live in the same residence hall (even the same floor in some cases) and take  classes together. These will be your study buddies and lunch companions if you're brave enough to strike up a conversation. At the least, you can help each other decipher a campus map to figure out where your psychology lecture is.

Get involved in at least one student organization on campus. Clubs and groups are a way to meet people with similar interests, or just to learn more about a subject you're curious about. If you're afraid to go to a meeting alone, take a roommate along. With more than 500 organizations here to choose from, you're bound to find one that you like. 

Greek life is one of the most common ways to get involved on campus, as evidenced by the almost 22 percent of undergraduates who participate. Whether it is a social or service fraternity or sorority, Greek organizations provide a ready-made group of friends, social activities, philanthropic events and leadership opportunities.

During her freshman year, now-senior Amelia Smith almost turned down a friend's invitation to attend an informational meeting for Phi Sigma Pi, a co-educational honors fraternity. She ended up joining and served as president of the MU chapter last year.

"If several people that lived on my floor hadn’t convinced me to go with them to the meeting, I could have missed out on a tremendous opportunity," she said. "There isn’t a single time walking between classes that I don’t see one of my brothers and stop to chat with them."

Missing the camaraderie of high school sports? MU students stay active with everything from basketball to martial arts. Athletics, RecSports and club sports are always looking for new athletes. MizzouRec also provides opportunities for team sport competitions. You can join an existing team or create your own.

If you're not athletic, pick up an MU football game ticket and cheer on the Tigers at Faurot Field with thousands of fans.

If you're a superfan, consider joining a spirit organization such as Tiger's Lair or Marching Mizzou.

Campus religious groups celebrate a variety of faiths through teachings, music and community service. Many groups, such as the Christian Medical and Dental Organization, are based on academics in addition to religious affiliation. If you're looking for a more traditional experience, there are several churches within walking distance of campus.

Many colleges, majors and emphasis areas have academic clubs and fraternities, not to mention networking and travel opportunities. For example, MU's Biochemistry Club provides fellowship to pre-med majors, and Alpha Kappa Psi is a business fraternity.

If culture or ethnic background is important to you, MU's diverse student population has already created dozens of cultural, international and minority student groups. There is even a FIG called Pangaea, which is dedicated to foreign languages and diversity.

Alex Dzurick, a senior linguistics and sociology major, was not satisfied with joining a student organization that already existed. He created his own — the University of Missouri Quizbowl Club

"I have many, many new friends who play for other college teams, half a country away," he said. "Knowing that Mizzou is part of something bigger and that our contributions to the bigger picture do not go unnoticed and unappreciated makes everything worthwhile."

A part-time job is another way to meet people. Stay up-to-date in the gaming community with a job at a video game retailer. Strike up a conversation over a cup of coffee as a barista at a local coffee shop. Hundreds of fellow students are employed by MU, from desk jobs at the library to serving dinner at the dining halls.

What's the bottom line? Just do something.

"If nothing else, you'll make a few new friends on campus and pick up some piece of knowledge that you will carry around for the rest of your life," Dzurick said.

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