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Finding Your True Friends at College

Being a freshman is hard. Especially if you’re an introvert and have spent the past four years with the same people.

Now that I’m a sophomore at Notre Dame, I’ve come to understand what exactly made it so difficult for me to transition from high school to college - despite being extremely excited to meet new people. I went to a grade 6-12 school, meaning that the friends I made as a twelve year old were the same ones I had up until I turned eighteen. These were my best friends, people I’d come to know better than myself, and I had completely forgotten what it was like to expose myself to a completely new environment where no one had an inkling of who I was and my past reputation.

Don’t get me wrong, I looked forward to college as a high schooler. So much so that I often complained about the lack of things to do in my suburban town and the lack of diversity I saw in my high school. I came to Notre Dame with the expectation that I would find friends immediately, people who were ambitious, like-minded, and spirited. I always thought of myself as an easygoing person who could easily adapt to my surroundings, but after Welcome Weekend in 2019, my vision of myself had begun to blur.

I hadn’t realized how much of my self-image was based on how my best friends from home saw me. There were certain ways that I could act and they would immediately understand the underlying meaning behind my actions. I could reference small things from TV shows, YouTube, books - and my friends would always understand me and return a similar train of thought. But without their reinforcement, I felt lost in some ways, like I wasn’t too sure of who I was anymore.

I met several people my first weekend here, but none of them saw me the way my best friends did. In hindsight, it was so foolish of me to think that others would be able to perceive me the ways my best friends had. But in the heat of the moment, all I could feel was a looming sense of dread, like I would never be able to find people that I could truly connect with. And an even more frightening thought was that the person who I thought I was was actually someone who could only exist around my closest friends.

I began to feel disappointed in Notre Dame and myself. Nothing was how I expected and I could feel my insecurities begin to surface.

The Lalatennis Shoes Grass Her Campus Media It was with this resignation and exhaustion that I ended up finding one of my closest friends at ND. I remember speaking with her a couple weeks after the end of Welcome Weekend and she’d asked me how I was doing. I told her I was tired and slightly homesick - she laughed and empathized, which encouraged me to open up about how horrible I thought the first weekend here was. The ridiculousness of the serenades, the awkward and forced conversations with our brother dorm, the absolute atrocity that was Domer Fest. We ended up bonding over our not-so-pleasant experiences and I realized that it was the first time I’d spoken so candidly since I arrived on campus.

It would have been nice to say that from that point on we were best friends. But finding your closest friends isn’t always an effortless thing. I realized that I was searching for my friends back home in every person I met at ND - which I ended up discovering was impossible. 

A lot of people I've spoken to since then have told me they acted similarly. It's perfectly normal to want to seek out those who are the most comforting. But, it's unfair to assume that everyone you meet must conform to the standards that you have put on them. It wasn't until a month or two into the school year that I realized my own drawbacks. I needed to approach people differently - change my mindset, which of course is much easier said than done, but one thing that helped me was this phrase I repeated over and over: be curious. Ask people about themselves, delve into who they are and what you can learn from them. There's always something they can teach you - even if they don't end up being your best friend.

The girl I had the conversation with earlier was someone who immediately showed characteristics of someone I could see in a close friend. In no way was she identical to my friends back home, but I wanted to put in the effort to make our relationship stronger. 

Molly Peach-Friends Molly Peach / Her Campus

My advice to anyone who’s struggling to find their true friends at college is this: be intentional with every action. If you want to get to know someone better, ask them to get a meal or to study together. Don’t wait for them to ask you. I guarantee that asking someone to grab a meal, especially as a first-semester freshman, will make them incredibly happy. If it doesn't seem to work out between you two immediately, always give the other person the benefit of the doubt. Never blame them for not being the person you imagined them to be - instead be patient. Again, be curious and set your own expectations of friendship aside for a moment.

Be reassured by the fact that your best friends from home are unique. To find exact replicas of them at college would be an insult to their personalities. Another tip I have is to delete social media for the first month. Seeing others post thousands of pictures on Instagram claiming to have met their best friends already is nothing but a negative influence. Most likely those posts are exaggerated. Others like to reaffirm their ability to make friends by posting online, but steer away from the temptation of comparing yourself to them. Focus on yourself and your own relationships.

I'll say this again: being a freshman is hard. But with the right mindset, you can crush your first year here and find your true friends with ease. I'll be rooting for you!

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