Social Struggle As a Low Income Student

    I was in the car with some friends a few days ago and we were all discussing how COVID affected our lives. I had friends who talked about missing trips to foreign countries with their families and not being able to stay at their second house in a different state. I understand how these problems are fit for some people's lifestyles, but as a low-income student, these situations can be difficult to hear. Moving from a completely different state where my financial background differs greatly from the people I’ve met, it has been a challenge making strong connections with people. 

    For as long as I can remember, getting food with people is considered a social event. Whether I’ve seen it in movies, shows, or in real life, going out to eat plays a role in making friends. Over the last month, I have been asked to eat out at least fifteen times, in which say I spend an average of $10, then I would have spent up to $150 on food alone in only a month span. Especially staying on campus only an hour from Los Angeles, there are always new places to try. This has put a strain on my social aspect of college because I can’t always spend that money. This takes away time and memories spent with my friends and simply isn’t something all people understand to its full extent. 

Hands counting dollar bills with woman using calculator in background Photo by Karolina Grabowska from Pexels

    Another hobby, especially girls, tend to have is shopping. A group of friends will dedicate a day to going to LA and walking into the stores along all of the many streets. Trust me, I love shopping and if I could, I would do this every day. For the most part, I will walk around these stores and simply window shop rather than actually buy. There are only so many times I can do this to where it gets hard to watch my friends being able to continuously buy new things. I love spending quality time with my friends despite being able to spend money or not, but not being able to, for example, get matching outfits or accessories, can allow me to feel excluded. 

    Typically money doesn’t create a big impact on my friendships, but moving away from home where there are new people and new things to do can be strenuous. When it comes down to simple conversations, small details will sliver into the talk and I can’t seem to relate. The situation flows both ways, in which I can’t understand other people's lifestyles just as they can't understand mine. I choose not to be embarrassed by the financial problems I have, but to a certain degree, I can’t help but feel like I am missing out on some part of the friendship or connections with people. 

    In sum, people aren’t defined by their financial background. Just as I wouldn’t want someone treating me differently for having less, I shouldn’t treat someone differently for having more. Friendships are based on connections as people, not as dollar signs in a bank account and I know my true friendships will form when I feel the relationship goes beyond money. So although adjusting to a new environment and different people can be challenging at first, I choose to have a positive outlook and focus on my relationships with people for the right reasons.