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The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.

This week, it’s Her Campus at Exeter’s 10 year anniversary! I’ve been a part of Her Campus since my first day at Exeter University. I joined with a group of girls from my flat, and despite a big hiatus of campus activities thanks to Covid, I’ve met some amazing friends in my chapter. I think the brilliance of Her Campus is the female friendships it encourages, both online and in real life. So, what more appropriate way to celebrate our 10 year anniversary than a celebration of female friendships themselves?

My perspective about female friendship has definitely changed over the years. In nursery and primary school, I think a gender division sort of happened by default, after all at that age we’re taught to believe that “boy’s smell” and “girl’s rule.” It was no surprise then that all my best friends were girls. I was joined at the hip with my best friend, Katie. Our teacher even used to get us confused. Then when I was 8, my ‘bffl’ Katie moved to Cornwall, and I got to know the new girl in my class. We ended up in a group of four and were literally inseparable. We called ourselves by an anagram of our names (‘JOSH’) and had sleepovers every other weekend. Without realising it, those were the years that I learned what it meant to have true female friendships: knowing that, no matter what, there was somebody who always had your back and would play mermaids with you in the playground. They are still some of my closest friends today (although it’s been a while since playing make-believe).

I went to an all girl’s grammar school from the age of 11 to 16. There’s something very unique about growing up at a single-sex school that I can’t really put to words for anyone who didn’t, but it definitely complicated my relationship with female friendships. Too often, my peers and I pitted ourselves against each other. I cared too much about what certain girls thought, dragging myself down by comparison. I felt like I was constantly fighting: that if I wasn’t pretty enough, smart enough, or liked enough by boys I wasn’t worth anyone’s time. This was only made worse by health problems which further isolated me from my friends and the inevitable dramas that came with navigating love and all its complications for the first time. Of course, what I didn’t realize then is literally every other girl around me felt like that at some point. It was during my worst moments that my closest female friends were the only people to pull me up. Really, during this time it was my friendships with other women that were my most redeeming quality.

The ages of 16-18 were like waking from a fever dream and suddenly realizing how awesome female friendships were. It was at this point in my life I started to really understand the benefits of surrounding myself with strong, talented, and all-around awesome women, instead of pitting myself against them. I started spending more time with the girls I hadn’t valued enough before, and my happiness changed so quickly. It’s in these friendships I felt I could truly be myself. By having a better relationship with the women around me, I stopped competing. I was able to make genuine friendships with men for the first time in my life because of this too, and my self-worth multiplied. I no longer felt intimidated by successful women, instead, I wanted to be friends with them. I just wish I’d realised all of this a little sooner.

It was also after high school that I finally started to invest in the most important female friendship in my life – the one I have with my mum. When you’re a teenager it’s pretty easy to see your mum (or mom as mine would prefer to be called) as enemy number one: certainly, too many of my teenage years were spent in shouting matches about the chores, being mean to my sister, staying out too late and acting spoilt – which, to be fair, I probably was. But, certainly for me, as I grew up I started to realize just how great my mum really is. I know this isn’t the same for everyone but I managed to hit jackpot with my mum and she is now, without a doubt, one of my best friends. I can’t wait to see her after coming back from university, or when she comes to visit me in Exeter for a mini-break. She’s been my absolute rock and it’s crazy how much of a mummy’s girl I am. I can genuinely say that, if I wasn’t her daughter, I’d really want to be her friend.

Now at university, I’ve been so lucky to cultivate more amazing female friendships. From the girls I worked on committee with for Exeter University Theatre Company, to my all-female housemates, I’ve spent so much of my time with incredible women. From every drunken night out with my closest mates to every cwtch with my housemates, it’s these girls that have made Exeter feel more like home. I’m excited about moving on from university and I feel ready for the next step in my life, but my main hope is that I can still hold onto these friendships in whatever comes next.

Of course, I couldn’t finish this article without mentioning the girls from this Chapter. In my first year, getting the advice of Her Campus girls in their last was amazing, and all of the girls were so approachable that it made university so much less intimidating. Our trip to the Tar Barrels in 2019 was a standout memory for me. I’ve made some lovely friendships thanks to this society, with girls I’d have otherwise never met, and that continues to this day! I only met my friend Jess this year at a Her Campus event, but from the first time I met up with her, I felt like I’d known her forever. I can’t wait to meet more like-minded people through this society and have so much to thank it for.

In every stage and aspect of my life, my friendships with other women have shaped me, inspired me, and ultimately led me to the path I’m on today. Whether our friendship faded, or lasted through everything, it is these women that have taught me the importance of a girl’s night, of building up other women, and the strength our collective voices can have. This is an ode to every single one of them, and everything they’ve taught me about being a woman. Girls really do rule.

I'm in my third year at the University of Exeter taking an English degree. I'm the fashion editor for our chapter this year, and my main focus is on how to be more earth-friendly whilst staying stylish and not breaking the bank. I also love sharing stories inspired by my part-time job, my long-term relationship, and my small business!
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