Dear Freshman: Friends



Dear Freshman,

When you come to college, you'll have a lot of ideas about friendship.

I came to school with expectations. I would make friends with my orientation class. I would bond with the people in my dorm. Ten years from now, my roommate and I would still be talking every month.

Life never meets expectations.
I have one close friend left from orientation group, as well as one I say "hi" to in the hallways. Most of the people from my freshman dorm still recognize me and nod if we pass each other in the student center. My freshman roommate and I work together at the paper. But none of my friends here are who I thought they'd be.

If your experience is anything like mine, you'll have friends like these:

There's the person you sit next to in orientation who makes you laugh and has foggy concepts of respect and personal space. She never pays attention in class and draws incredibly inappropriate doodles in your notebook, but for some unclear reason you still sit next to her and hang out outside class. She introduces you to a guy you'll have one of many freshman crushes on and convinces you both to use old temporary tattoos. By senior year, you'll all be dating other people and too busy to talk much, but you'll still go on the occasional Taco Bell run.

There's the girl in your dorm who you loan your stuff to. You just want to help, and she really does mean well, but after she loses something you decide to stop loaning people your things. But you still talk about boys and go to her room late at night for no reason and invite her to your parties, because she's loyal and supportive and fun to be around. Her summer Snapchat stories are always the most interesting, and she looks like she belongs in hipster-chic fashion photos.

There's the neighbor you nod and smile and say "hello" to in the hallway. She can be loud and dramatic, but when one day you just need someone — anyone — to talk to, there she is, conveniently across the hall, not even three feet from your door. Before you know it, you're having hour-long conversations two or three times a week, showing off the stuff you found at the thrift shop or used book store, and hugging it out on bad days. You're not entirely sure when or how it happened, but suddenly she's the person you most need to see when you get bad news.

There's the student you sit next to in class. Maybe she whispers with you in the back row. Maybe you study for the exams together or do homework over the weekends. Maybe you have mutual friends and just want a familiar face to make it through the semester, or maybe you both really hate this class. It doesn't matter; the point is, you're in this together, and that's a bonding experience. You'll learn over the semesters that these friends rarely stay in your life past the final exam, and that's okay. You were there for each other when you needed it, and you had fun.

There's the girl who sits next to you at lunch one day and immediately launches you into conversation. You're in the same year and have the same friends. Suddenly she knows all about your dating history, and you're sending gross faces to each other on Snapchat. By the next day, when a guy you don't know sits at your table, the two of you have half a dozen inside jokes and can convey whole sentences in a single glance.

There's the student who is always scowling in class and never, ever speaks to you. It gets awkward when you have a group assignment. It's 8:00 a.m. and neither of you wants to be here. But you're in the same major, so you end up in all the same classes. Eventually you learn her name and figure out some of her hobbies. By finals week of your third or fourth semester together, you're actually having real conversations. By subtle insertions of yourself into her life and strategic offers to help her move, you manage to make friends with this person you once thought was too cool to talk to you. It turns out she's just incredibly, relatably weird.

You'll meet plenty of other people, too. You might have the roommate you expect to stay with you forever, but end up switching roommates and just talking to the first one at work. There will be students who make a huge impact on your life who don't even remember your name. You'll meet people you think like you, only to find out they think you're annoying; you'll meet people you think hate you, only to find out they're just not a morning person. And you'll meet plenty of people who don't fit any of the roles these people played in my life.

The point is, relationships don't follow templates. Friendship doesn't follow the rules. So the most important part of making friends freshman year is not to 'make' it happen. Relationships take effort, and they take more of it with every busier year. But just because everyone says you'll bond with your dorm or your roommate or your class doesn't mean you will. Don't allow expectations to force ties that don't work or limit relationships that just happened overnight. If you find that someone's not willing to make time for you, let them go. If you discover the person you most want to see a movie with isn't who you expected, let it happen. If you think someone's really cool but you have no reason to talk to them, just tell them you think they're cool and want to hang out. College students are remarkably similar at heart, and that early connection should be natural and easy to make.

Don't stress yourself out. Talk to the people around you and see where the conversation goes.




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