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How I Built & Created Strong Friendships In College

Making friends in college was no easy feat for me. Although I am now surrounded by several amazing people, it was not always this way. I started off freshman year excited to make tons of friends, and I kind of expected that it would happen easily. I would always hear stories about people meeting their life-long best friends in college, and I was really looking forward to that. 

The first close friend I made at UCLA was my roommate Ari. And honestly, freshman year would have been so much harder without her. We met on Facebook and decided to room together at the end of high school. But, funny story, the first time I actually met her was at orientation. I was scared that I would embarrass myself or that we would not click as well as I expected. So when she introduced herself, all I could manage to say was, “Hi…”. And then I walked away. It was so awkward, but the good thing is that when we started talking after we moved in, we got along so well. As cliche as it sounds, I could already tell that we were going to be great friends.  friends on a hill

While I had the best roommate I could ask for, it was still hard for me to make friends outside of my dorm. Everyone seemed to have a friend group by week 2, and besides my roommate, all I had were people I would say hi to now and then. My friends from home would post about going out all the time with their new friends, and I remember constantly wondering “How?!” Was it really THAT easy? Well, since I was nowhere near as extroverted as I am now, I understand why it seemed impossible at the time. I cared too much about what people thought of me, and on top of that, I missed my high school friends. I felt like I would never find people that I got along with as well as them. 

I knew that if I continued to see my life and friends back home as the only thing I had, I would never be able to build something more for myself. So, I decided to start joining clubs and putting myself out there in order to really connect to campus. I was able to make some friends, but there was still a lingering fear in the back of my mind that no one cared about me as much as I cared about them. And there it was- one of the biggest reasons why I was finding it hard to connect to others: I was too worried about myself. I finally realized this mindset was inhibiting me. Instead, I needed to see if people were worthy of my time. This did not mean judging them in a negative way or anything, but it did mean that I was not going to worry about surrounding myself with tons of people just for the sake of not feeling lonely. Quality over quantity. 

friendship gamesHonestly, I did not fully grasp this concept until about week 5 of my sophomore year. Only a small number of close friends carried over into my second year, and it was hard to come to terms with that. But the truth is, it is normal to have different friends and friend groups throughout college. In fact, this is just the way life works out sometimes. Some people maintain close contact with the same people, and some do not. The important thing was that I was able to stay close with quality people from my first year, and it did not matter if there were not many of them. They were not in the same friend group either, but that was completely okay too.  

After coming to terms with the “quality over quantity” idea, I stopped desperately grasping at any potential friendships that would come my way. I focused on the close ones that already existed in my life and grew more comfortable with being independent. When meeting new people, I took the time to get to know them for the sole purpose of engaging with someone interesting and fun. When I shifted my focus onto them, more organic conversations could develop. I would ask genuine questions out of curiosity about their lives, and it was so much easier to just vibe and relate. During these moments, not a single second did I worry about being likeable or not. Every amazing person I met or became friends with seemed like an added bonus to what I had already built for myself. 

friends at tailgateSoon enough, little by little, more and more quality people started making their way into my life. And it felt so natural. I was no longer in that constant cycle of forcing friendships or getting my hopes up just to be disappointed. I found myself with too many incredible friends to count, and that had not been my intention. The less I thought about it or expected to make tons of close friends, the more I was actually able to make. 

friends for spcnI remember one time around week 2 of fall quarter, people on my floor were having a karaoke night in the lounge. At the time, I did not have enough friends or a friend group to do that with, and it made me really upset. I remember going to the gym and feeling like I was about to cry on the elliptical. Tragically funny, I know. But fast forward to the end of the quarter, and I was at an apartment with a group of my best friends screaming the lyrics to "Bohemian Rhapsody." It was one of my favorite nights of the year, and I know Week 2 Ashley would have been proud. So if there is one thing I learned from this entire experience, it is that when you trust the process (no matter how long or difficult), life tends to work itself out. You might even meet some cool people along the way.