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As a junior in college, I have experienced and observed the different ups and downs of friendship that college life has to offer. While it may seem easy for many students to make friends at a public university like CU Boulder, I had a much more difficult time than most. However, because of the struggles I went through, I felt like I was able to gain a deeper understanding of what true friendship is. No matter where you are in terms of finding the right companions, here are a few valuable lessons and realities that I learned about friendship as a college student.

Stay true to yourself.

If you feel like you have to change yourself in order to fit into a particular group of friends, then you might have to take a step back and think about whether it’s right for you to do so. Changing to be a better person is never a bad thing, but the truth is that we’ll never really know what it means when we’ve become “better” people. Sometimes, you might even achieve the opposite instead, where you are doing things that you don’t consider right without realizing it. For instance, if you’re trying to be friends with people who talk behind people’s backs often, you might find yourself doing the same thing around everyone.

find people who are genuine and trustworthy

What I find interesting about CU Boulder is that since it is a fairly large university, there’s a wide range of personalities that you can come across. Some people might be more extroverted than others, and some might be more open-minded. While it’s cool to meet people with varying personality traits, just remember that true friendship comes from those who are genuinely interested in getting to know you (it doesn’t always have to be romantic). 

Another important quality to find in people is whether you can trust them or not. Let’s say, for example, that you meet someone in class. You sit together every day and talk with one another, even exchanging phone numbers. Then, later in the semester, you find out from someone else (whom you trust) that this classmate of yours called you something rather insulting behind your back. 

Will you continue to trust your classmate after that? Probably not. 

Would you still consider them a true friend? Well…probably not.

people have different interests and priorities.

One of the most important lessons I’ve learned is to understand that every person has a completely different life from yours. If you meet someone who, for instance, is passionate about skiing, while you are more invested in music, you wouldn’t be too surprised if they forgo attending a concert with you to go skiing in the mountains instead. Additionally, we don’t know everything that is going on in each others’ lives, so it’s best to respect each other’s commitments.

be more open-minded.

If you’re avoiding being friends with someone just because you think, for instance, that they’re too socially awkward for you, then you might need to adjust the lens from which you envision friendship. True friendship doesn’t come from criticizing someone’s flaws; rather, it’s rooted in your appreciation of who they are on the inside. With that, someone really might have some awkwardness in their personality, but they might turn out to be a truly kind person who could one day be one of your closest friends.

To me, friendship is like a painting. It starts off as a blank canvas, but as more and more streaks are added, you’re able to see your progress and gain more experience. A few mistakes will be made along the way, but you learn from them, allowing you to improve. As you work towards the finished masterpiece, you’re adding all sorts of shapes and shades. It takes patience and effort to get to the end result, but every single color, mistake, and detail was worth it. 

With that, I’m proud to say that I’ve finally discovered who my true friends are. It wasn’t the smoothest journey, but just like a piece of artwork, I appreciated both the memories and hardships that led me to where I am today. Of course, this doesn’t mean that my “painting” is already finished; for all of us, this is just the beginning.

Gennah Penalosa is currently a junior at the Leeds School of Business. During her free time, she likes to draw, play the guitar, and read webcomics.
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