Oh No, I Picked the Wrong Friends :(

The fall of my freshman year I worried most about the change in academic rigor from high school to college. I realized I would have to adjust how much time I spent on my schoolwork and my methods of studying. I didn’t realize I would also have to reevaluate my previous friendships as well as my methods for forming new bonds. That first semester made me realize I no longer had any close friends and that I’d have to use more energy than in the past to form quality friendships. As the semester got more challenging and more things in my life were changing, I began to long for a support system on campus. I wanted REAL friends.

I tried some of the traditional ways to make friends like keeping my door open in my residence hall, talking to people in my classes and trying to join clubs. Although I met many people, none of the relationships stuck. Unlike high school, where I saw the same people daily, college life was more fluid and unpredictable. People where entering and exiting my life more quickly than I was able to remember their names! The few people who were consistently in my life were my roommates and a group of guys who lived on my floor. But the more I got to know them the more I wish I didn’t know them at all. I didn’t share any values with them. In fact, many of their views were in opposition to the identities I hold (i.e., they were kinda racist/sexist).

These issues became very apparent after an incident in a store toward the end of my first semester. I was followed throughout the store and stopped by security. In that moment I felt scared, humiliated and alone. I rushed back to my building, wanting someone, anyone, to confide in. I tried talking with one of the people I regularly hung out with, but he just questioned me and tried to figure out what I “did wrong” that “made” them think I was stealing. I was hurt and I was angry. Soon after this I decided to tell one of my professors what happened and about the reaction of the person from my floor. She introduced me to some students she knew who shared similar identities and values. I didn’t become best friends with these new people overnight, but I suddenly had people to eat with in the dining hall and I could talk about my life experiences with them without worrying about being shut down. I am still friends with one of these people now, two years later!

Starting my second year didn’t make finding friends any easier but I learned many things about making quality friends. I understood that a fulfilling friendship is like a plant; it needs nourishment and time in order to grow. I no longer thought of myself as a failure for not having a bunch of best friends. First year students are always told how to make new friends but aren’t taught the value in nurturing brand new friendships and I think that is a major oversight. Making friends for the sake of not being alone isn’t enough. You should never tolerate people who make you feel bad about yourself. It is OKAY to struggle with making friends because quality friendships take discretion.

Developing meaningful friendships

It’s easy to connect with people about your favorite Netflix series, where you worked in high school, or even why you chose to come to Ohio State. But how do you know when to initiate the more difficult conversations? During my first year at Ohio State, I didn’t know how to naturally get to know people on a deeper level. Coming to college, you have to choose when to be vulnerable and when to ask the difficult questions. Some of these conversations might include missing your friends back home, adjusting to college, or talking about what is really going on in your life.

I’ve always been a little nervous to be the person to initiate conversations. This was especially true when I came to a big college and it seemed like everyone around me was making close friends so much faster and easier than I was in my attempt to make friends. I just assumed that someone else would be more social and willing to befriend me. That’s not always the case, because everyone is at least a little scared to get to know others–even the outgoing kids! During my first year, I had to keep reminding myself that many freshmen were experiencing similar feelings.

So, where do you go from there? I know it can be intimidating, but stepping out of your comfort zone to initiate these conversations can be really crucial. Here are a few questions to think about or pose to your peers if you’re wanting to take your friendships deeper:

  • What has been the most surprising thing about your first year on campus?
  • What is something you’re excited for this year that you haven’t experienced yet?
  • Is there anything you’d like to do in Columbus or at Ohio State that you haven’t done yet?

There is so much power in being a consistent friend, and that could include sitting by the same people in class, attending a student organization meeting, or just hanging out with the people on your floor. All of these situations are opportunities to push through the wall of small talk.

I think it comes down to this: we all desire to be known and accepted by others. Our lives also become more meaningful when we know others on a deeper level. Whether you’re an upperclass student or new to campus, we never reach a point of having “enough” friends. All of the FYE Peer Leaders especially are upperclass students who are available and willing to talk if you’d like! Feel free to reach out to one of us for other tips on how to build deeper friendships.

Letter to First Year Me

As I approach the end of my second year, I can already see how much has changed since nearly 365 days ago. Looking at what is different now and everything I’ve learned, here’s the letter of advice I would’ve appreciated a year ago today.

“Hey Connor,

It’s me. I mean, you. Well, you get the picture. At this point in your year, you probably feel like you’ve got it all figured out. Well, I hate to break it to you, but…you don’t.

And that’s perfectly okay. With just two months left of your first year, college life as you know it will be over. You won’t have a meal plan anymore, have an excuse to see the same people every single day, and you won’t be a bright-eyed and bushy-tailed first year anymore.

I’ve compiled a short list of things to keep in mind as the year draws to a close (and trust me, it will be over faster than you can imagine). Here are 5 key pieces of advice that I really could’ve used last year at this time:

1. Appreciate Residence Life (and that Meal Plan)

Since you’re one of the over 90 percent of first-year students who live on campus, you’re probably thinking, “I can’t wait to shower without shoes! My bed at home is calling my name. Ugh, I’m so annoyed with everyone.” But you need to stop. You are currently living with or among dozens of other people who are your age, going through exactly the same things. Soon, there will no longer be copious numbers of coeds at your disposal with whom to experience and share life. Have those random heart-to-hearts, stay up a few extra hours and bond with your floormates, and appreciate the on-campus experience while it lasts. Who knows, maybe the people you meet there will become you future roommates and lifelong friends. Additionally, that meal plan is so valuable and useful. Enjoy it before you run out of blocks. Seriously.

2. Take Pictures

Use your iPhone, a digital camera, a disposal camera from the CVS on High Street. Just take pictures. You’ll be glad you did later. Take one of your room in its natural state. Take one of you and the friends you sit around doing nothing with every single day. Maybe even take a selfie on the Oval (we’ve all done it). Screenshot the Snapchats, upload the Instagrams, and capture every moment. It’s great to show friends and family back home and also to be able to look back and remember the normal moments of your first year.

3. Go To Everything

My main regret from my first year was failing to go to the various free or discounted events held on campus or even utilizing all that was available to me. Stop stressing over an exam (which, let’s face it – “midterm season” is anytime between weeks 5 -13) or roommate drama or and do something. Take your friends on a spontaneous trip to Jeni’s in the Short North. Go to the OUAB Spring Concert. Go to a club meeting. Leave your bedroom/the library/the Union and experience all that Ohio State and Columbus have to offer.

4. Breathe

Stop what you’re doing and take a deep breath in… now breathe out. Repeat. Connor, stop stressing so much about everything. You’re going to pass your finals (yes, even the Biology one. I promise!). You’re going to stay in touch with all of your friends over the summer. You’re going to be okay. Your first year has been a whirlwind, but there’s still two whole months to spare. Spring break will be an amazing time to reflect and look back at all you’ve accomplished. What else do you want to do? Is it too late to register for a May term course? Are there any friends you want to spend time with before summer break? Just don’t panic. It’s not worth it. There’s still time, you’re still there, and you’ll be fine. You’ll be more than fine. Your first year will end like a wonderful finale.

5. Be Open

This is your first year of college. This is your time to be open to new experiences, people, and most importantly, yourself. Be open to vulnerability and trust that girl who lives down the hall. Be open to accepting that you failed that midterm, but that it won’t determine your entire grade. Be open to eating at Mirror Lake Creamery instead of Morrill Traditions. Be open to happiness, losing, making mistakes, trusting a friend, losing a friend, falling in love, changing your major, or becoming the person you’re meant to be. You only get one first year. Live it to the fullest.

With all the love and luck in the world,

Connor”