Editor's Note: This ongoing thrive series looks at how students on college campuses are innovating, overcoming challenges and living healthy lives.
MANSFIELD — Young adults face unique challenges as they transition out of teenage years and into adulthood. Many of these obstacles can be overcome by maintaining and creating strong connections with others.
Nathan Doup, senior at The Ohio State University at Mansfield, said he developed much deeper relationships during his college years than while in high school.
“I love sitting down and talking to my classmates about life over coffee or drinks,” he said. “It makes me feel like an adult.”
Rather than talking about romance, Doup said he and his friends now enjoy conversations about politics, religion and work.
“I was always talkative in high school, but I didn’t really talk about my faith with my classmates,” he said. “I became more open with my faith because I was attending the on-campus Bible study.”
Doup said it encouraged him to know there were other students on campus who shared similar interests and passions as him.
"It's interesting to talk to my social work classmates and see what they like about social work or what they'd like to change about social work," he said.
By talking to other students and professionals on a similar trajectory, Doup said he was reassured that he was on the right career path.
“That’s where the connection comes in, talking to people who are in your same age bracket about what they have planned for the future,” he said. "It's nice to talk to people about what they have planned for their life because sometimes you're really not sure if you are making the right choices."
Doup also said that college allows you to meet other people from different towns or states, which can broaden your understanding of how other people behave and communicate.
“Even people that are seen as non-communicative still communicate with people, but in a different way,” Doup said. “Gamers, for example, are in communication with like-minded people, connecting with other people who enjoy video games.”
Doup grew up in Mansfield and went to Mansfield City Schools his entire life. Since he commutes to college, rather than living on campus, he said he searches for things in common between himself and his peers.
Megan Bailey, a licensed social worker with New Directions Counseling Center, said a great way to start a conversation is focusing on commonalities, such as similar majors, hometowns, favorite television shows or even the same water bottle.
“Start that conversation, and you don’t know what you could have in common. And it could be just the smallest thing,” she said. “It can be really, really simple to start the conversation.”
Bailey said taking this first step and being emotionally vulnerable can be difficult. However, students who go to the same college have many similarities to discuss.
"The college experience itself is unique, and the stressors that come along with it," she said. "I think it is important to have people who you can relate to, who understand how you're feeling and what's going on."
The New Directions Student Assistance Program at OSU Mansfield hosts an Interpersonal Process Group that helps students who struggle with connecting to others.
“They develop a goal of how they are going to increase their interpersonal skills and a lot of times when they share about why they developed their goal, other students relate to that,” Bailey said.
Being on a small campus like OSU Mansfield allows for rich connections with professors and classmates. Typically, students have multiple classes with the same peers.
Doup said one semester he had chemistry, math and biology classes with two other students, which allowed them to bond over study sessions for exams.
With the quarantine from COVID-19, he said that Facetime, Skype and Zoom have all helped with social interaction.
“You actually get to hear that person’s voice, you get to see their face, you kinda get to see their body language,” Doup said. “It has its ups and downs.”
Doup plans to graduate at the end of this spring semester with a major in social work and a minor in substance misuse.
"I was excited to experience a big university graduation, but it's not going to happen," he said. "There's going to be more graduations in the future though because I plan on going for my masters."
Bailey said looking for new opportunities to connect during quarantine can be scary for people to try out, but it's important to get creative.
“When I work with students who have social anxiety, a lot of times they assume they know what other people think about them already,” Bailey said. “We call it mind reading. I try to challenge them to put that aside. Sometimes what you think about yourself isn’t what other people actually think about you or see in you.”