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Expectation vs Reality: My First Few Weeks of College

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at U Mich chapter.

I couldn’t tell you how many times I heard “You’re going to have so much fun” “You’ll love it,” “You’re going to find your people,” and of course “these will be the best four years of your life,” before moving in.

So here I am, a somewhat-extroverted introvert and an out-of-stater, to give you a rundown of my first few weeks here at the University of Michigan:

Everyone around me seems really happy and excited to be here, making a ton of new friends and managing to juggle their new lives. I’m not not excited, I’m just more even-keeled. Everyone seems like they’re having a great time during Welcome Week, living it up on game nights, tailgating, and making friends. I appreciate the spirit and vitality, and honestly that was one of the many reasons I chose UofM, but, right now, I am overly conscious of how much that eager excitement is not mine. While I’m sure I am not the only one who feels like this, it sometimes feels that way.

There are so many people. And this is both good and bad. There are always people around, everywhere. And somehow I feel less alone when I am physically by myself, where’s no expectation of me to be doing something social. But, even in the spot I’ve found for myself to go to “be alone,” in the cubicles way up in Hatcher, where it’s virtually silent, there are people on all sides, not even ten feet away in the next cubicle. Over the years, I have gotten fairly good at being alone; I’m comfortable with myself and just being with my thoughts. But now, it’s all the time. When I’m trying to be alone, there really is no place for it. The thing about lots of people though is that being surrounded by so many happy people makes it much easier to feel like the only one. Solitude is best when it is, or at least feels like, a choice, not a requirement. This is definitely not something I was expecting.

I have insecurities about making friends. I’m not a huge partier, but I’m not opposed to going out and having a good time, whatever that may entail. Since arriving, I have joined my fair share of clubs and student organizations, trying to make friends and be social. I have at least one person in each of my classes that I talk to in a “friendship” way. I’ve gone out and met people in all the ways “they tell you to,” but something just hasn’t clicked yet.

I’m not a “woo” girl but I’m not against having fun, and I know I’m not alone in this. I considered rushing to make friends and connections, but I decided Greek life wasn’t for me, at least right now. Nonetheless, questions swirl through my head. How can I get involved? How do I know what’s going on? How do I meet people? I don’t really like parties, but I can go and try to ‘fake it till I make it,’ but is that really the best way to make friends? Even still, I prefer to have a few really good friends who you can do everything with, from *productively* studying (even if we’re in different classes) to grabbing a bite to eat to watching Netflix in sweats on a Friday night to dressing up and heading out to a house party. Feeling comfortable in my own skin is important to me, and I don’t want to feel like I’m not myself. I strive for quality over quantity of friendship, but right now, quantity seems very appealing.

What I need to wrap my head around is that it takes time to make really good friends. But the hard part is it doesn’t seem like anyone else needs that time. I know it’s more of the appearance than the reality, since most people do in fact need time to adjust. I’ve come to realize that high school, even if it was the worst experience and you were just begging to start over, was familiar. And here, nothing is familiar. On one hand, it’s refreshing to have a blank slate so we can be whomever we want. For most of us, however, no one knows us and opening up is a daunting task. There’s the pressure to smile and laugh with the group of thirty strangers packed into a tiny dorm room, pre-gaming before going out to a frat party. The night can be fun, but the next day, you’re right back to where you were before. Good friendships typically take time to develop.

Also, being a millennial, it is hard to separate appearing to be happy and loving life and actually doing so. We are overly concerned with how others see us. We go out to take pictures of ourselves having a good time, so we can post to our Instagrams (“finsta” or “rinsta”) or to our stories, letting everyone know that we’re having so much fun in college. We’re doing what we’re supposed to, having the best four years. This isn’t true for everyone, obviously. But I feel as though we’re so caught up in seeming okay or trying to be #goals that we notice too little about how we actually feel. And doing this creates a vacuum of loneliness.

Another social drawback I’m finding is not seeming too “clingy” once I’ve found someone I want to be friends with. We live at a time where disinterest, even feigned disinterest, seems to receive more reward. We don’t want to seem over-eager as we don’t want to scare off potential friends with any sort of obvious enthusiasm…. It’s hard to know the balance between showing effort and being “too available”.  

This is not to say that I dislike the University of Michigan in any capacity. It’s just not what I expected college to be like. In fact, the home of the “leaders and best” is growing on me and I really enjoy the opportunities and experiences provided to me. I’ve met a bunch of very interesting people who have already expanded my outlook on life. And I am not saying I made the wrong choice in school. Rather, I want to say that not everyone has the best four years, or finds “her people” right away. If you feel like this, you’re not alone.

Photo courtesy of Umich Contributor

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Em M

U Mich

Em is a senior at the University of Michigan, studying English and Psychology. Go Blue!