The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

October 9, 2013

Give college friendships time to take shape

By Jessica Tully
Associated Press

— Family members warn you not to blink too fast because college will be over before you know it, leaving only memories of the best times with the best friends anyone could ask for.

So as 18-year-olds pack up their belongings and move into their dormitories, their minds are filled with expectations that need to be met.

They assume they will have an instant connection with every person on their floor. By the time classes begin, many wide-eyed freshmen expect lifelong friendships already will have been formed.

It's so simple that this happens to everyone, right?

Trust me from experience, it doesn't, and those people who do make lasting friendships quickly are few and far between.

Jessica Tully

I sobbed for hours to my best friend from home on my first night at Penn State University. I felt like such a failure for not receiving any invitations from the women I had met earlier that day to go out that night.

I assumed that none of my siblings or cousins had experienced this loneliness while they were attending college. I thought I was the odd one of my family, incapable of making friends or having an amazing college experience.

It took every bit of willpower in me not to call my parents and ask to go home, especially after watching women on my floor come back to the dorm giggling about all the fun they had at the party they attended and all the phone numbers they had received from men.

I couldn't believe that I hadn't quickly met the friends I would spend my next four years with. For the first time in my life, I felt vulnerable. I had to prove myself as the good-hearted person that I am to people who hadn't known me my entire life.

Both terrifying and liberating, coming to college is one of a few times a person is able to make a fresh start.

Until that point, I hadn't realized it takes effort to make a friend, especially when surrounded by all new faces.

So because my experience thus far wasn't living up to my expectations, I put myself out there. I left my door open so women on my floor could stop in and introduce themselves. I asked when some of those women were going to dinner and asked to join them.

It took more time than I thought, but sometime over shared watery pasta at the dining commons or laughs while we recounted stories from the night before, these women had become my best friends.

So when you ask me if the past three years have been the best of my life, I will tell you yes. To simply say it has been incredible would be too much of an understatement.

Trust me when I say that I will go kicking and screaming when I graduate in May, but at least I'll know that I am surrounded by my friends who accepted me for me long ago.

College has completely surpassed every expectation I had when I came to school, just like those in my family told me it would.

But don't assume it will happen as soon as you arrive.

Choose wisely the people you want to surround yourself with. Even though the women who spend every night partying look like they are always having fun, I've learned that looks can often be deceiving. Instead, try to befriend people who you think you can trust.

You might not know it immediately, but eventually you will be happy for your good judgment. I chose to surround myself with women who don't spill my secrets or put men between us, and it has brought me three years of blissful happiness.

Let yourself be vulnerable and show people who you truly are. It may take some time, but all the pieces gradually will fall into place.