By Madeleine Keith
There are a number of Aristotle-worthy pieces of advice that you’ll hear during orientation and in your first weeks of college. Pulling all-nighters right before an exam is not always the best idea. The library is there for a reason. And while the meal exchange options for Chick-Fil-A are a thing of beauty, trying to grab chicken nuggets there around noon will almost guarantee that you’ll be standing in line until dinner time. But what the brochures won’t tell you is that one of the hardest things you have to do in college is make friends.
I know. It sounds juvenile; the very words recall that timeless cliché that your mother tells you over the phone on Friday nights. “Try to get out there and make some new friends, dear.” Unfortunately, Mom isn’t entirely wrong. Unless the majority of your senior class happens to filter into one specific college, your friends circle has just been blown to smithereens.
Those people who you used to grab Whataburger with every other night are now hours, if not days, away. And spilling all the latest gossip to your bestie over lunch is a lot harder when they don’t get out of their economics classes ‘till 4 pm. What’s worse, it’s likely that the girl who you chat with during that art history class you were forced to take has a completely different major than you, and the only time you will ever coincidentally see each other again is during the basketball games at the popcorn stand.
But don’t get too depressed. There are a few simple rules to remember that will have you posting Squad Goal pictures on Instagram again in no time.
Think of finding your new crowd as finding a new significant other and every classroom, study-group, and SI session that you attend as another blind date. The people that you sit next to aren’t the same ones you’ve seen walking down the hall since grade school anymore. They’re from different states, different countries, different cultures, and it’s your job to figure out whether or not you want to put a ring on it.
Asking the typical “where are you from? What’s your major” questions are okay but nobody wants to date a guy who only talks about the weather, right? So dig deeper. Ask why they got interested in that major in the first place, what their favorite books and movies are, discuss what they’re passionate about and tell them about you in return. Not every chemistry lab conversation is going to end in a life-long friendship. That’s okay. First dates sometimes crash and burn. But the more people you talk to, the more friends you’ll find. The proverbial blind dates become fewer and fewer and soon the only time you’re eating lunch alone is when you’re inhaling a late- night pizza while typing a tolerable Lit analysis as fast as your fingers can fly.
Which brings us to perhaps the most important point to remember. Never be afraid to put yourself out there. You’ll never know how a date went if you don’t even go to the restaurant. (I know. The metaphor is getting tired. But bear with me.) One of the awesome things about college is that there are hundreds of clubs, organizations, and societies to become a part of. Do you love to long-board? UTD has a club for that. Looking for a religious organization to become involved in? We’ve got plenty. Would you like to give free hugs to passers-by in the Plinth or dress up as Waldo and discover who amongst the masses can spot you? No problem! We all want friends who we can relate to, who share our quirky style or eclectic taste in music. And these organizations are practically Match.com.
But you’ll never meet your fellow lover of all things Alicia Keys if you don’t step out of your dorm and grab a burger with some strangers. And even if you don’t find your new bestie, don’t worry. You’ll likely get a free t-shirt for your troubles.
There are a number of old friends sleeping in those dorms hundreds of miles away that are never going to stop receiving 2 am texts from you about the cute guy three seats away in your government class. And that is totally okay. But the individuals you’re attending college with are the ones who you’ll commiserate with when the fire alarm goes off in your Res Hall in the middle of the night. They’re the ones who share an industrial-sized bag of Cheetos-puffs with you while you both try to decipher the notes from that day’s organic-chemistry class. The students at UT Dallas are the people that are making memories with you. So get out there. Introduce yourself. Find the soulmates who will help get you through the rest of your life. Or maybe just the next four years’ worth of exams.