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Work & School A freshman's guide to friends and finding where you belong

May. 15, 2019
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Illustrated by Hannah Kang

I have friends. I definitely have friends. No one can say that I don’t have friends.

Even though I could say that confidently now, it’s no secret that I was never the best at making friends. Granted, some of the reasons for that were out of my control—I moved every other year for most of my childhood. But in my teenage years, I was my own roadblock.

My friend Erika would tell you that I almost always befriend the wrong kind of people, and it takes me “way too long to realize that”; my friend Carla would tell you that it should be attributed to my God-given resting bitch face.

If Friends, How I Met Your Mother, and Friends from College have taught me anything, it’s that the friends you meet in college follow you through adulthood. While high school friendships are mostly based on how much you’re exposed to one another, you have a larger say in who you become friends with in college; you become grouped together by interests and hobbies, and the bond expands beyond the restraints of school.

Upon looking back at my high school experience, I’ve realized that a lot of my friendships were built on the foundation of seeing one another five days a week. This made me want to make genuine, lasting relationships in college. After all, I’ve always heard stories about other people’s college friends—being their best man, being deemed the godmother of their roommate’s daughter, or going on vacations together. 

Like any other incoming freshmen, I was terrified of not finding like-minded people and ending up friendless. I had gone to the same school for eight years, and so I’d never had to put any additional effort into meeting people. 

When it comes to making friends in college, it’s all about being willing to take the first step. Don’t be afraid to strike up conversation with someone you’ve seen around. Even if you’ve only sat next to them one time in class, asking to grab a cup of coffee after class can be the start of a new friendship. At times I worried people would think I was hitting on them because of my eagerness, but I really was able to meet some extraordinary, interesting people this way.

Now, my friends are the type of people I would want to work with on a (graded!) group project. They’re reliable, hard-working, straightforward, and easygoing. Spending time with them doesn’t feel like a chore—and even better, unlike my high school friends, none of them knew me when I had bad eyebrows. I got to choose who I was and how I presented myself. 

But because of this mindset, I was drained after my first few weeks of college; it felt like I was performing in a never-ending play. I was playing an idealized version of myself, and it didn’t work out in my favor: instead, I found myself surrounded by people whose values didn’t align with mine. It was only when I began showing more of myself that I grew closer with people whom I could genuinely see myself sharing the college experience.

Still a freshman,

Wen Hsiao