My biggest fear coming into college was that I wouldn’t meet good friends. It wasn’t that I was afraid of being friendless—no, I’ve never had much trouble making friends. I’m a pretty introverted person, with a quiet demeanor, and I certainly get nervous talking to people. Yet, at the same time, meeting new people is one of my favorite things in the world. I didn’t fear failing to make any friends, no, that wasn’t it. I was scared I wouldn’t meet my people.
My high school friends are my family. They are my home—a place where I can be effortlessly me. Starting college at Kenyon this August, I was desperately afraid I would never find any people or form any relationships that could even compare to my high school ones. Whether you made some of the closest relationships of your life prior to college, or if you’ve never really felt at home in any of your friendships, I think it is safe to say you can relate to the fear of not building honest and comfortable friendships in these next four years.
Now, it is nearly October, and I can safely say that I have formed relationships with some of the coolest, most authentic people I have ever met. Making friends is a process—it is stressful, interesting, fun, exhausting, and if you’re lucky, it is quite rewarding. It is an art. I have certainly been lucky in this respect so far. But how did I end up with a solid group of friends (and more in the making) by the end of one month at college?
When I first met my friend Sam, I was convinced she hated me. Now that we are good friends, I know that was all in my own head. After the first conversation I had with my friend Salavtore, I thought he was the coolest and immediately wanted to be his friend. Little did I know, he thought I was uninterested in our conversation. When I met my friend Jackson, I thought he was really nice! Yet apparently, his first impression of me was that I was “dead inside.” (Jackson, this is not my fault, as 8:10 astronomy will have that effect on anyone.) First impressions can be bizarre. Luckily, they don’t always have much of a lasting effect on the relationship.
Even if someone’s first impression of you (or vice versa) is absolutely abysmal, it’s usually nothing a little small talk can’t fix. I used to be firmly anti-small talk. To me, it has always felt shallow, forced, and useless. My first month at college has changed my perspective on this. Small talk, despite being annoying, serves a really important purpose when first meeting people. Getting to know someone is a magical experience, and small talk is often the first building block of a budding relationship.
Some relationships never get past small talk—and this is alright. Not every person you meet at college (or in life) is going to be your best friend. However, because the nature of college is so specific, and we were all thrown together and suddenly immersed in this new place, relationships can also develop pretty quickly. This is perfectly normal as well. The days here are busy and long, and you may be around some of the same people basically 24/7. It is hard not to get to know people very fast in this type of environment. As someone who is generally not a fan of getting personal and sharing all my ~life stuff~ with people I’ve just met, I will say this—don’t be afraid of letting people get to know the real you. It will only make you more confident in yourself and in your relationships.
Letting interactions flow and relationships blossom into what they are supposed to be takes time and patience. We are always told not to rush into romantic relations, but not rushing into friendships is just as important. Nothing forced will be rewarding. As a student just wrapping up the first month of my first year at college, I am not trying to master the art of making friends. I am taking my time, having patience, being open and being myself. Hopefully, this allows the friendships I have made so far to continue to grow. Maybe this—this comfortability with the process—is, in fact, the art of making friends.