Written By Hannah Spaulding, USA
In a culture obsessed with romantic relationships, the value of genuine friendship often goes unrecognized. However, God created us not just for romantic relationships, but also to have fulfilling friendships. There are many examples in the Bible of great friendships—such as between Jonathan and David, and Jesus and the disciples—that show friendship is important to our Creator.
Yet as we grow older, friendships don’t seem to come as easy as they did when we were children. Making new friends can be a daunting task, especially when entering a new situation, such as a college or working environment. For example, last summer, as my freshman year of college was approaching, I began to feel increasingly anxious about making new friends.
At the small, public high school I attended, my core group of friends were non-believers. Please don’t get me wrong, they are great people, and I love them dearly. Throughout our years together, they taught me much about what it means to love people who think and act differently from myself, and to this day I am thankful for my continued friendships with some of them. As college approached, however, it was my desire to find friends who could encourage me spiritually and walk alongside me in Christ.
Transitioning to college was probably the hardest thing I had done so far in my 19 years of life. Moving to a different state where I didn’t know anyone and would be hours away from my family was a frightening thought—making my desire to find good friendships even stronger. It was definitely challenging at the beginning; there were many days filled with loneliness, and several moments of tears and anguish.
I started a new job to fill some of the empty hours, and I tried to avoid being alone as much as possible. Those moments of feeling alone and missing my family also drove me to be intentional about meeting people and making new friends. I realized that I couldn’t let the difficulties of the transition to college overwhelm me, and that I needed to actively pursue those friendships that I so desired.
However, the friendships I ended up with turned out to be much different than I expected. Sure, God did provide me with good friendships. But looking back on my freshman year, I realize that I had gone to school with several misconceptions about what making friends in college would be like.
Misconception #1: I won’t make any friends in college.
This was my biggest worry as I prepared to leave for college, and probably the worry most frequently discussed at freshman orientation. Like many of my fellow freshmen, I was fearful of either not making friends, or of not finding like-minded friends that I could share my struggles with.
I am here to say, however, that you will make friends in college. The process will take time, and some friends may come and go, but ultimately you will find friends who will walk alongside you during this phase of your life. Some may even become lifelong companions.
Misconception #2: l will only make friends with people who have the same interests as me.
In my first semester of college, I chose to take a science class revolving around dune research to satisfy a core science requirement. Through this class, I met three of my closest college friends. Ironically, none of us were geography or geology majors, but through trekking up and down the dunes each week, we formed a close friendship. I also met another of my closest college friends in a Latin class that I took as an elective. Though we all shared the same faith, we all had different majors, and even different interests. But God in his infinite wisdom brought us together using circumstances we wouldn’t have thought would lead to friendship.
Of course, I did make friends within my major and areas of interest, but what I learned through these experiences is that friendship can come from any situation. The key is being willing to join new communities and try new things.
Misconception #3: My college friendships will look exactly as I imagine them.
Your college friendships probably will not look exactly as you imagined they would. You might not be best friends with your roommate, or you might find friendship in unexpected places, such as a dune research class.
You might not even find your closest friendships in the college setting. While in college, your close friends might come from an off-campus job, or a local church in your area. If there’s one thing I’ve learned, it is that there is no cookie-cutter for the college experience.
The college phase of life is a time of self-discovery and possibility. Instead of being a source of anxiety, making new friends can be a great opportunity. When I reflect on my first year of college, the friends I made and the adventures we had together are the sweetest and most treasured of all my memories. Though transitioning to college was difficult, in the end, it was a rewarding experience precisely because of what I was initially so worried about—making friends.