Students make friends on campus by joining clubs


Dominic Salacki

Pals Caleb Lewis, a third-year business administration student (left), and Tommie Parker, a second-year undecided student, read the Bible together in the Student Union’s dining hall.

Dominic Salacki, Reporter

Abigail Billovits-Hayes, SGA’s vice president of public relations (left), and Ben Nussbaumer, SGA’s president, became acquainted through the SGA, becoming friends in the process. (Dominic Salacki)

After four semesters of limited in-person interactions with classmates because of the pandemic, AACC students are beginning to make friends on campus as the college transitions into a new sense of normal.

Some students said joining clubs, chatting with classmates and approaching others on campus is helping them find people with common interests to spend time with.

“It’s definitely much better than it was when everything was all online because now, we’re here in person and it’s so much easier to talk to people and make friends,” Student Government Association President Ben Nussbaumer, a third-year general education student, said.

The college is offering more than 40% of its class sections on campus this semester, and more student clubs are hosting in-person events than in the fall.

Tommie Parker, a second-year undecided student, said the students he has met on campus are eager to make new friends and said joining clubs is one way to do that.

“I’ve noticed that, with COVID and the lockdown, people are very open to making friends easily, but they’re not as open to making that first initial conversation,” Parker said. “I’ve noticed that clubs are the best way to meet people and get connected.”

Nussbaumer said attending on-campus events is another way to connect with potential new friends.

“There is a need for in-person events now,” Nussbaumer said. “I think that’s important because college life is different at a community college, as opposed to a four-year campus, because you’re not living on campus. I think it’s still important to be active on campus, so you still get that sense of college life.”

Nussbaumer added that being social is not only a college skill but a workplace skill.

Socializing on campus “prepares you for moving on to the workforce,” Nussbaumer said. “That way you can assimilate into the culture of your workplace because you know how to talk to people and how to socialize.”

First-year psychology student Amber Bartlett said she struggled to make friends in high school after moving to Maryland from Georgia for her senior year.

“I didn’t know anybody [at Arundel High School], so I joined a bunch of clubs and that’s where I found my friends,” Bartlett said. “I did photography, so the artsy kids [were in] my group.”

Bartlett said “keeping in touch with my high school friends was really hard” after graduating from high school in spring 2020 during the pandemic.

“A lot of my friends did move,” Bartlett said. “That was when conversations really started to become dull because we couldn’t hang out with each other; we had to stay inside our homes.”

Bartlett took a gap year after high school because she didn’t want to “go in the storm” of the pandemic. But she said AACC’s COVID guidelines make her feel safe on campus next to people who might become her new friends.

“I had a great first semester here [in the fall], which is very lucky of me,” Bartlett said. “I would say the [benefit] of going here my first semester [is that] I learned how to navigate my way through the college because it’s totally different than high school.”

Bartlett also advised other students to make friends by joining clubs and attending their meetings.

Clubs “meet at different times and when you [attend club meetings], you’re going to make friends,” Bartlett said. Also, she said, “Engage in your classes because your professors want you to talk. I’ve made friends in my virtual class just because I speak out.”

According to Nussbaumer, SGA recently sent out “a lot of polls,” and the results revealed that “students prefer in-person events.”

Abigail Billovits-Hayes, SGA’s vice president of public relations, agreed.

“Coming to events definitely helps, at least, to talk to someone even if you only see them for that one event,” Billovits-Hayes, a second-year marketing and advertising student, said. “At least you’re getting out of your house and saying words to people that aren’t your pet or your parents.”

Nussbaumer said if students feel comfortable getting outside of their homes, [and they’re following COVID guidelines], they should come to campus.

“Being on campus is a really big part of college life … even if you’re not actively making new friends [but still making] small talk [with others],” Nussbaumer said. “I think it’s important for people to get out and socialize because humans are social animals, and we like to hang out with people.”

Caleb Lewis, a third-year business administration student, said he and Parker met and became friends last year through their church, which sponsors the AACC chapter of Campus Ministry International.

Lewis and Parker agreed that being friendly to others is one way to make friends on campus.

“Speak up to people because if you’re quiet, you can’t just wait for somebody to come over to you and speak,” Lewis said. “Sometimes you have to initiate it.”

He added: “Something my father says is, ‘If you want friends, you have to show yourself friendly.’”