When I was 10 years old, I made a big move from Los Angeles to Beijing. But as a kid, it didn’t feel like a big deal. As long as there was food to snack on and places to play, I was fine. It was easy to make friends. If someone shared their snack or shared a jump rope or played tag, then we were friends.
I then stayed at the same school for eight years, from 5th grade all the way to 12th. I was comfortable with my friends and knew everyone at our school. I hadn’t had to make friends in years. So you might understand why I was nervous about going to a new school (college!) and not knowing a single person.
As a senior, it’s crazy to think that I’ve only known the friends I made in college for three years. All the support we’ve had for each other and all the fun we’ve had together has felt like so much more!
If you’re a first-year, you might feel like having friendships like this is impossible. You might doubt that your friendships in college could amount to anything close to your awesome friendships from high school. Or maybe you’ve already heard so much about the life-changing friendships people have made in college, and you might begin to doubt yourself if you feel like you haven’t found that yet.
I admit that it took me awhile to find my place and my people. But I did find them, and I know that you can too. I thought it’d be fun to take it back to the beginning and share how I made my first friends at Bryn Mawr:
I attended the Tri-College Identity, Equity, and Social Justice summer program a week before Customs Week. It was an intense environment to immerse myself in right off the bat, but it was so eye-opening and definitely a worthwhile experience. I met tons of people and had fun, but I only made two close friends. But really, one or two close friends is all you need! Three years later, I’m still friends with both of these ladies.
During my first two weeks at Bryn Mawr, I used my excuse as a first-year for talking to anyone. There was even one time I didn’t recognise anyone in the dining hall, so I sat down with some people I didn’t know and introduced myself and asked questions when I didn’t know what to talk about anymore. If you know me, you know that this is sooo out of character for me. But I was full of energy and excitement as a first-year, and I’m glad I decided to put myself out there rather than hide in a corner.
A few weeks later, I somehow found myself with the swim team. I didn’t go into college intending to be an athlete, but I was open to the possibility. I ended up only doing it for one year, but I’m glad that I did it, regardless of the reasons I decided not to continue for all four years. Anyways, joining a sport kind of gives you built-in friends. Everyone on the team sees each other so often (college level training is rigorous!) and friendships naturally arise. Two of my best friends on campus are because of the swim team.
Fall break was a huge moment for me. I think that’s about the time a lot of first-years get homesick. They might still have doubts about college, but that’s totally natural. If you’re feeling that way, don’t think that there’s anything wrong with it! For fall break, I visited a friend from high school at Princeton. Whilst in Princeton, two friends from Bryn Mawr randomly called me up and asked if I wanted to hit up NYC with them. They weren’t two people I was super close with, but I had wanted to get to know them better, and I felt honoured that they thought of me to come on this trip with them. On a whim, I said yes! Those two helped me with my confidence more than they could have imagined, and this spontaneous trip also gave me a new sense of independence that I’ve loved discovering more and more throughout college. Although I don’t keep in touch with those two ladies as much as I did my first year, I still think about this experience they showed me.
That’s another thing. You don’t have to be best friends with everyone. Friends aren’t something you need to go hunt for and tally up. You do you, they do them, and I have no doubt that you’ll find some amazing people here on campus.