As a high school senior, I anxiously counted down the days until I would be free of the tedious classes, the petty drama and the significant amounts of downtime. All I wanted was a fresh start at BGSU!
When I finally arrived at college, I found myself much less prepared and excited as I had imagined myself to be. Yes, I wanted new opportunities. Yes, I wanted to grow as a human being and escape the people or places I thought were limiting my growth. But I didn’t fully realize that starting fresh is difficult, not to mention scary.
After I unpacked all of my belongings, my mother hopped back in her car before dinnertime and said, “Why don’t you go eat with your floor mates? You don’t need me anymore!” I ended up not eating dinner that night, as I was completely unsure how to go about making all new friends from scratch. Instead, I sat in my dorm room and contemplated how I would react when these strangers rejected my dinner invitation.
In high school, I already had friends from childhood, and the friend-making process seemed more organic and less awkward. If a new friend joined our group, it was usually because they already knew at least one other group member. The idea of having no group members and having to start from nowhere was frightening. How do I start? Do I creepily ask those around me, “Hey, want to be my friend?”
The first few weeks of school were incredibly tough because I felt like I was courting everybody around me. I had to make sure I looked great, sounded great, acted great, etc. in order to grab the interest of all of my new potential friends. Making friends didn’t seem like a natural process anymore.
After a solid month of freak-outs, I looked around me and realized I was surrounded by great people, and not because of my so-called courting. The process was still organic; I just allowed my nervousness to distract me from that. The foundation for our friendships had been created through trips to Toledo, ice cream cones at Myles Dairy Queen and yelling at BG football games.
Maybe I did have to work a little harder to find my place and to establish those connections, but so did everyone else! Nobody comes to college with a handful of friends and a plan to run BG. That’s what makes these friendships so meaningful. They, like you, had to overcome their fear and allow complete strangers into their lives.
My advice: don’t overthink the friend-making process your first year. Every single first-year student you meet is just as nervous and scared about establishing a new group of friends too. It may not seem like a natural process to establish these new connections from nothing, but in the end, these are the friends you will cherish for the next four years and beyond. These are the friends who will help define your college experience.