I don’t understand. How can everyone make friends by asking each other the most generic questions: “What’s your name, where are you from, and what do you want to major in?” All I hear are these same three questions and then silence. It’s so difficult to keep any other sort of conversation going with someone you’ve just met. This was the extent of my conversations with people during my first two days at the University of Virginia. Coming from a high school of only twenty seniors, I was friends with all of my classmates. College was a big adjustment for me. I came into UVA wanting instant friendships that would “last a lifetime” like every college graduate had promised.
After being here for a week, I’m starting to realize that you can’t make lifelong friends in five minutes. It takes time, patience, and effort to cross the bridge from friendliness to friendship. The best way to cross this bridge is to stop obsessing and let friendships develop naturally.
My advice to first generation college students is to find a group of people that seems friendly or intriguing and approach the whole group. Obviously they’ve figured out how to make friends if they’re all together. That’s how I made some of my best friends so far at UVA. I nervously walked up to a group of friends at an event, started talking to them, and ended up playing poker with them through the night. Now added to their group text, I feel like an original member of the group. Success! All it took was a few uncomfortable seconds to make potentially lifelong friends.
Approaching a group can be difficult, but in college, that’s what students want you to do. Everyone is in the same boat, trying to make friends and feeling awkward about how to do so. Just remember that it will be worth it in the long run to initially push yourself outside of your comfort zone.
As I’m sure you’ve heard one hundred times, joining clubs is a great way to make friends. I’ll be the one hundred and first person to urge you to join them. If you don’t know what to join, think about this: If someone asked you to describe yourself using three adjectives, what would you say? Then, match each one of these adjectives with a club to keep the three most important pillars about yourself alive. For example, I would say that I’m creative, adventurous, and curious so I joined film society, the rock climbing team, and the astronomy club.
As for now, I’m still on the bridge from friendliness to friendship with some, but at least I’m not standing before the bridge, terrified at what lies ahead. I’m confidently walking towards the lifelong friendships that lie on the other side, one step at a time.