Though we’re out of it slightly now, there was a moment on the popular app Tik Tok where it felt like every first-year student in the United States was dropping out of college. I’m talking about those videos where it’s like “How my first week at college went” with six back-to-back videos of tears in a dorm room and then a car full of stuff after they move out.
The comments are usually filled with “This generation isn’t ready for anything” and the creator of the content, typically, has something pinned like, “This was the best thing for my mental health, and I needed to move back home.”
Maybe that’s the case, and I’m happy for them that they did what was best… but… I’m always a big supporter of the “It doesn’t happen overnight” idea, as it takes time – sometimes a lot of time – to truly find your group. Further than that, friends are not just dropped at your feet. It takes an often uncomfortable amount of “putting yourself out there” to find your little community.
Take me for example. I came to Fairfield University as the only one from my particular public high school in upstate New York. I did not meet a lot of friends in the Facebook group over the summer, as my first-year roommate did. I’m also not devoutly Catholic, I don’t ooze school spirit and thus I had to find a particular group that accepted me for me, the old-fashioned way.
In the first weeks of school, I had to eat with an odd assortment of 30 people in the Tully just so I wasn’t eating alone. I had to make the uncomfortable task of grabbing dinner with the random girl I sat next to in my 5:00 p.m. English class. I had to hang out in the lounge just to do homework, instead of under my nice heated blanket, with the hopes that on the off chance, I’d run into someone I kind of already knew and we’d study together. I signed up for any club at the Activities Fair that seemed friendly, half of which I only attended once and all of which I still receive emails from as I don’t care enough to ask about taking me off their mailing lists.
For me, all of this worked. That girl from English is still one of my best friends and we lived together my Sophomore year. One of those “random” clubs was The Mirror, which I signed up for not really knowing journalism was a true career option and now am Editor-in-Chief.
Yet, with this, comes growing pains. I had friends the first few weeks of college that I was sure would last, and now we have each other blocked on Instagram. My first-year roommate and I were nothing more than respectful acquaintances until April of our first-year. We became close, talked a bit when I went abroad and decided to live together junior year.
I’ve now lived with her for three of my four college years and we’ve had future bridesmaid dress discussions.
But, before I end this piece with a simple, “You just have to give it time and put yourself out there” I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention I had a few things in my favor. I’m incredibly outgoing, and I was a first-year student pre-covid. Yet, I pose the same solutions for both and have two stories to share.
Firstly, spring of my sophomore year, I had a short conversation with a then first-year student who was having trouble finding friends even into the spring semester. She seemed to be doing everything right. She was in a lot of clubs and largely involved, but just couldn’t seem to find her group.
I told her the truth, that I wouldn’t worry, I only had one friend still from my first-year. If I were her, I’d just wait for the right group to come along. I know now she did find that group and seems to love her time at Fairfield.
Fall of my junior year, with Covid precautions at their height, I had multiple conversations with first-year students struggling to find people through Zoom screens and missing out on all the opportunities I had. No 30 person Tully dinners, nor in-person club meetings, nor asking to hang out with a peer after class (asking to hang in a Zoom meeting is just not the same). Though it’s gotten slightly better for these students, it did take a year to see some improvements and I can see friendships start to form right in front of my old senior eyes.
I do fully understand that sometimes nothing works and Fairfield just isn’t a good fit for some. But, I didn’t meet my true group of “I’d call you to bury a body” friends until my junior year. It took me many failed attempts, and many “almost there’s” to find my little group and I’m telling you, the wait is absolutely worth it.