Making close friends is hard.
This is coming from a self-proclaimed extrovert, so you know it must be true.
In high school, I was repeatedly told that making college friends is better because you get to choose them from a large population, versus childhood friends who just so happen to live in the same neighborhood as you. However, I’ve found the exact opposite to be true.
In middle school, I knew every person in my grade and had the ability to hand pick my friends from the crowd. By high school, I found my best friends through getting to know them for three years or more.
In contrast, college friendships form in a fairly random fashion.
For example, during Welcome Week my freshman year, I went to visit the room of a girl I met and talked to during orientation. Her roommate had a guest over as well, so we all started talking and spent most of Welcome Week together. Little did I know, my orientation friend’s roommate’s guest (did you follow that?) would end up being my best friend and current roommate. We bonded through the Welcome Week events and after attending our first college party together … But that’s a story for another time.
Besides my roomie, I’ve made plenty of random friends during my first two years here.
My floormates jokingly tease me because I always introduce myself to people in the Harper Hall elevator as we ride to class in the mornings. But once, I introduced myself to a girl who happened to be Jewish and was looking to get more involved, so I invited her to Hillel services and informal sorority recruitment. Now she’s a regular attendee at Hillel, my god-little in my sorority and one of my closest friends here, all because we struck up a conversation in an elevator.
I’ve made friends in the laundry room while loading a washing machine. I’ve made friends in the silent basement of the library through non-verbal high fives and smiles. One time, a guy lifting a massive weight in Markin next to me introduced himself, and now I have a gym buddy.
That being said, these random interactions may or may not lead to a “close” friendship. I can meet someone in a laundry room and never see them again or pass by them, sharing nothing more than a slightly awkward hello. At the end of the day, these encounters don’t lead to my desired goal of creating lasting friendships.
I tended to fall into friendships my freshman year mostly based on living in the same residence hall and through mutual friends. My sophomore friends warned me that freshman year friend groups wouldn’t last past the summer when we all split up into different housing situations and activities. To my dismay, they were absolutely right. People who I thought would be my closest friends through all four years turned out to be friends by convenience. This discovery was more than saddening.
I don’t think we discuss loneliness enough in college. Feeling lonely can lead to problems academically, socially, emotionally and more. At the beginning of this year, I felt lonely. Not because I didn’t have friends, but because I cared so much about preserving previous friendships.
Many of my freshman year friends had moved into greek houses, become RAs or simply filled up their schedules with other priorities. Besides my wonderful roommate and sorority sisters, it seemed like I had lost a lot of friends, and I became focused on rebuilding friendships from the prior year. It didn’t occur to me until a month or so later that this may be an opportunity to create more random friendships with the potential to blossom into closer relationships.
So, I will continue to chat up my fellow elevator riders, laundry do-ers and gym go-ers. And I encourage you to do the same. You never know when you will be in need of some more friends. More importantly, the stranger standing next to you has the potential to be your next best friend at Bradley, but you’ll never know if you don’t talk to them.
Please, never feel like you are alone at school. It is perfectly natural to quickly lose and make friends. College can be intimidating at times, but there are so many welcoming faces just waiting for you to strike up a conversation. If you ever feel lonely, I suggest giving it a try. If you are intimidated, feel free to come and find me. I’m always happy to start a conversation with a new friend.