In a crowd of complete strangers, our eyes lock and we give each other the guiltiest of looks. “Shh..I won’t tell if you don’t.” We wink at one another and carry on our secret identities as second years infiltrating yet another first year event. During the first week at the University of Virginia, programs and activities are set up specifically so that all the first years can get to know each other in a social setting. The best part about this first week is that none of the first years know each other and therefore, can’t detect any second years lingering in the group. Yes, older kids and even the first years might think that it’s lame for a second year to be attending these activities. But why restrict yourself from free food, ice cream, and caricature drawings? Merely being a fly on the wall and witnessing first years awkwardly mingle is entertaining in and of itself.
Attending all of these first year events gave me flashbacks to where I was exactly one year ago-feeling anxious about meeting new people and figuring out how to go from being friendly to becoming friends with everyone I encountered. As a second year with a comfortable network of friends from last year, I find myself in awe of these first years putting themselves out there, pushing through repetitive and awkward introductions, and getting to know each other. First years are the friendliest people at the University. They are eagerly desperate to make new friends, get to know the area, and figure out completely new and independent lifestyles.
My first class at UVA last year was an introductory class with almost all first years. Everyone showed up early and introduced themselves to the person next to them, exchanged numbers, and found study buddies before the class had even started. However, during the first five minutes before my first class this year, everyone was silent. Dead silent. Why was this? We were in a higher-level course with no first years, no one had any interest in getting to know each other, and I suppose everyone felt too old for “study buddies.” It seems that as students get older, their comfort walls that they had to knock down as first years begins to build back up as they get too comfortable with the friendships and relationships that they’ve already developed.
Why can’t we all be like the first years? Sure, it can awkward to turn to the person next to you in class and create conversation, but I was excited going to class as a first year because of the friends I sat next to and struggled through classes with. The bottom line is that no one is too old to make new friends and no one can have too many friends. The first years are the ones asking for help as they navigate the beginning of their college experience, but maybe they have something to teach the rest of us.