If I’m being honest, I did not come to college with the best mindset. I had a boyfriend, friends, and a great life at home, so I had a lot of things keeping me there. St. John’s had always been my dream school, but I cried for a good 24 hours before officially leaving home. Before coming to college, all anyone had to say to me was how fun it was, and how I would make lifelong friends. But the reality was, nobody told me how exactly that would happen. Once I got to St. John’s, I realized that things were different than I expected. It seemed like people were finding groups so fast, and everyone knew how to talk to people with ease. The reality was that everyone was in this same unfamiliar place, and it was easy to start a conversation with any person you saw. I definitely would not describe myself as shy, but I still found it hard to be as outgoing as I felt other people were. Looking back, I should have taken advantage of this opportunity to make new friends, because no one really had everything figured out like I thought they did. I think the reason I found this transition to be so difficult was because most of my friends from home were lifelong friends, so I hadn’t had to start new friendships in a long time. A part of me also felt like I had to let go of everything I had at home, which I now know was not true; it was just time to let go of my time in high school.
The second half of my freshman year being taken over by the COVID-19 pandemic certainly did not help my situation. At this point in the year, I had made some friends, but I still did not make a life for myself at St. John’s yet, and I was more than happy to return home for the “2 week break”. While being at home for the remainder of the semester, some things in my life changed. I was able to grow up a little more, and my boyfriend and I decided to go our separate ways. I was excited to come back to St. John’s and try again, but COVID-19 was still an issue. Things were definitely different, but I was committed to getting the college experience I felt that I missed out on freshman year. I decided to join some clubs, made conversation, and exchanged numbers with people in my classes. Most importantly, I actually stayed on campus during the weekends. Visiting home is great, but home will always be there, and in order to make friends at school, you need to create a life for yourself on campus.
It sounds cheesy, but the absolute best advice I could give to you is to just be yourself. It is scary going somewhere completely unfamiliar to you, and when all anyone has to say about college is how great it is, you feel like friends will just come to you. The truth is, you have to put yourself out there more than you probably ever have or will ever have to again. If you push yourself to join things, do things, and most of all continue to be yourself, you will find your people. I’ll leave you with a few more pieces of advice before I go.
1. It is never too late to find your people. I have made friends all 3 years that I have been at St. John’s University, but my closest ones have come from Sophomore and Junior year. Be patient.
2. Things are not always as they seem. I promise as much as it looks like people have these huge friend groups already, everyone has to go through the same process as you do.
3. Just talk to people as much as you can. Be open and honest, because everyone struggles! If you remain true to yourself, genuine friends will come your way.
4. Don’t believe everything you see posted on social media. Your old high school friends are most likely feeling the same way you do at their college. Each day is a new opportunity to make connections! Keep trying.
At the end of the day, the reality of making friends in college is different than you may expect, but it is never impossible.