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The concept of “found family” is something that has always struck a chord in me in movies or books. From Lilo meeting Stitch, or Harry meeting Ron and Hermione, there’s something about friendship evolving into a small but supportive mini-family that leaves me misty-eyed. This idea is especially important for LGBT+ youth, like myself, who have struggled in the past with finding acceptance or validation for who they are within their own home communities.
Coming to Arcadia, my biggest hope was to find a community which would accept me for who I am, as well as friends who could be my found family at my home away from home. At my core, I am an introverted person. Prolonged exposure to strangers and awkward ice breakers wear me out. Needless to say, I was stressed out by the prospect of freshman orientation. However, I think it’s fine to accept that while orientation is a good opportunity to meet new incoming students, it’s okay if you don’t find a group of people who you connect with right away. What’s important is that you keep an open mind and find ways to put yourself out there that work with your comfort zone.
In typical introverted and millenial fashion, I managed to “put myself out there” by posting in the Arcadia Class of 2020 Facebook group, simply asking “Who likes video games?” From that single post, I met a girl who has been my best friend throughout my college journey, and our friend group blossomed since.
Today, the Arcadia community that I call home is comprised of numerous people who are special to me in unique ways. I went from feeling isolated as a gay woman in my high school, to being an out member of a vibrant LGBT+ campus community that accepts me for who I am and who I love. Both professors and students within the Department of Sociology, Anthropology, and Criminal Justice are not only my educators and peers, but people who I can call friends and family. My academic mentors often double as mentors of life in general, giving me emotional encouragement when I need it the most. Though I hadn’t met anyone from my department during first-year orientation, I’ve since formed bonds with my classmates where it doesn’t feel like we’re in competition with one another. Instead, we support each other to achieve the most that we can. The only challenge is keeping study-buddy meetups on track!
While my department at Arcadia feels like my home base (and it certainly has come to feel like I live out of the third floor of Easton Hall), my Arcadia community extends far beyond my major. My closest friends belong to an array of different majors, but we’ve bonded over interests we had coming into Arcadia (such as video games) or interests developed through new experiences (such as playing Dungeons and Dragons). My favorite thing we often do together is “family dinner” nights, where we make room in our schedules to enjoy a meal and talk about our days, what happened in class, and other topics you’d hear around a dining room table at home. While we’ve moved past the days of relying on the Dining Hall for every meal as first-years, we still make time for these dinners as often as we can.
Some say that the transition from high school to university is the perfect opportunity to “reinvent” yourself. However, I would argue that now is the perfect time to live authentically and unapologetically. I was tired of presenting a standardized and watered-down version of me in high school, downplaying certain interests of mine to others in fear that I would seem too “weird” or “nerdy.” By trying to embrace these things that make me an individual, I’ve been able to find a community at Arcadia that loves and supports me for who I am—for my strengths, weaknesses, and unconventionalities.