Walking into the dining hall can be anxiety inducing. After a long day of classes, you are ready to shove some food in your mouth and that’s the only thing on your mind. After settling down with whatever you’ve decided was edible, you look around and find the same situation – you are alone. After weeks of trying to find friends and making various plans, you are alone for a meal. Once again, you have no one to talk to, to share your day with, and honestly, you’re getting quite sick of your roommate. You need friends. Friends for late night snacks and convos, for morning walks to class.
Before I went away to school, I had these expectations for my college experience. I’d find all my friends and click instantly. We would take hikes and have bonfires, and have dance parties and be weirdos together. My grades would be amazing, despite all the focus on my social life. I’d find a community of people who share the same values as mine and feel comfortable being myself. I’d explore the college town I’m in and feel like the world was mine for the taking.
I totally psyched myself out. I will say that while one expectation was met, the rest weren’t. Maybe they will be. Maybe they won’t. I just have to accept that I’m not there yet. At college, it’s so easy to look around and see how everyone’s doing and look at yourself and say “I must not be doing this right.” And the hardest thing to realize is that some things take time.
Right now, I don’t feel like I’ve made super strong bonds with anyone except my roommate and that’s okay. I may be eating most meals alone, but that’s okay. I am making an effort to meet people. I have coffee dates with people (even though I don’t even like coffee – don’t hate me!). Building intimate friendships that last for a long time can’t happen in 5 seconds. And if you just became friends with the person right next to you, sharing personal information, you may find that your personalities don’t mesh quite right, or that your values are vastly different from one another.
I know it sucks feeling like you never have that one person or group of people to make you feel at ease. Being lonely at a large university isn’t fun. But I also know that settling isn’t an option for me. I have plenty of opportunities to mold myself into someone else’s perfect friend. I don’t want to. You shouldn’t either. You shouldn’t have to force yourself into something that doesn’t feel right. Even if it sucks right now.
If anything, I’ve learned a lot about myself. I have expectations about the friend who comes along and may be a friend for the next four years. I have values that I don’t want to throw out the window to make someone more comfortable. I’m not always high energy, some days I need to mellow down in the silence and breathe, and I want a friend that’s able to understand that. I just know that I’m not just looking for an acquaintance and someone to sit with at lunch. I’m looking for friendship that’s long lasting and built on shared values – pure respect and kindness in every interaction. I want memories, not meaningless conversations that are surface level. I’m looking for the friend worth waiting for.
We all long for what is yet to come. And the waiting for what you want is the hard part. It’s the part no one describes in their life story. How they had to wait to get better at the thing they loved. How their goals took time and consistency. How they had to sacrifice so they could get exactly what you want. How they had to wait for the love of their life to show up. I know you’re probably looking for a guide to making friends in college – but honestly, friends take time.
However, I’ll interject with some small simple tips that will help you get to know the people you see around you on a daily basis.
- You can be spontaneous and ask the person you see in the dining hall to sit with you.
- You can talk to a fellow classmate and ask them why they chose that class.
- You can Instagram someone from your school and turn that into a friendship.
- You can compliment someone or ask them a question.
- You can have a mutual friend introduce you to someone new.
In the wise words of my childhood hero, Avril Lavigne, “Keep holding on, ‘cause you know we’ll make it through.” If you’re looking for the friendship that I am, the one that lasts a long time, you’ll be waiting for a bit. And that’s okay.
Signing off, Gigi
What are your tips for making friends? How did you meet your best friends?