Making friends in college is a lot more spontaneous than I expected it to be.
For example, I was seated at Hill Dining Hall during New Student Orientation with some people in my hall and someone approached me, asking if she could eat lunch with us.
An acquaintance asked if a friend of hers could join us for dinner and we spent the next two hours laughing and chatting.
A girl down the hall invited me in for hot cocoa because she had a box of Swiss Miss packets.
My roommate had someone over during the evening and we got chatting.
I realized that the dining hall was closed for lunch at the same time as someone else, so we decided to go get lunch nearby instead.
These interactions may seem random, but it’s how I met some of my closest friends here at Penn. Being in college and surrounded by thousands of like-minded, similar aged individuals gives you incredible opportunities to meet new people and cultivate relationships.
Once you’re away from home, though, these friendships take on a whole new layer of meaning. While your family will always be your family and they play an indispensable role, there are some things about college which are hard to explain to someone who isn’t experiencing it with you. Club recruiting, the decision to rush for greek life, picking classes, navigating work-study, and exploring the city are all experiences that are very specific to your campus. It can create a little bit of a disconnect between you and your family.
This is where friends step in, though. They offer support that you may have once depended on your family for, especially if you have a large time difference between home and school and it gets hard to call as often as you would like.
My buddies are the people I vent to when I’m accidentally late for an interview (oops!), go on walks by the Schuylkill River with, consult when I’m composing a tricky text message, cuddle with after a long day, and ask for advice when deciding which clubs to apply for. The Penn experience is a whirlwind and without the sense of camaraderie that I feel with my friends, I think I would struggle to navigate it all.
Living with my friends also shows me different perspectives about life. One absolutely throws herself into the activities she loves and has no fear of commitment. She will happily devote her evenings, week after week, to theater and the Glee Club. Through her, I’ve learned that there’s no reason to worry about whether I’ll overcommit or stress myself out. If I care enough about something I might as well go all in.
On the other hand, I have friends who do the exact opposite. One, in particular, shows me that it’s perfectly fine to take time to chill, wake up early to see the sunrise but not for office hours, and spend an afternoon leisurely skateboarding around Penn Park. She’s a counterbalance to the type A person within me and I’ve learned a lot about self-care by emulating her in certain regards.
It’s important that you surround yourself with people who build you up, who you can trust, who are kind, and who make every day more fun. The people at Penn are diverse, interesting, and a treat to get to know. I can’t wait to see how the web of people I interact with expands and changes throughout the rest of my Penn career.