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Reflections of a First-Year College Student

Reflections of a First-Year College Student

“We’ll call every weekend.”


“And every free night.”


We stayed there hugging in the driveway, a small knot of four people, no one wanting to let go first. Such were the friendships I made in high school; I spent my time mingling between and within small groups, forming bonds catered to specific niches.

Going into college, I expected the same. I was rooming with two of my close friends from high school, and looking back on it now, I think we all assumed we’d add a few people into our group and settle down quickly.

As it turned out, my social experience at college was distinctly different from those early expectations. Coming from a relatively large graduating class, we looked forward to meeting people from a more diverse population and finding our niche. In practice, this goal proved difficult. I trooped through orientations, computer science residential programs, club meetings, tutoring sessions, and day-to-day classrooms, searching for the people that I could call my day ones, my go-tos, my ride-or-dies. I shared many similarities and interests with other students, but I didn’t experience the magic click with a single group like I expected to. In a crowd of tens of thousands of students, there were times when I still felt alone.

Who knew that floating in a sea of people could feel so impersonal?

Bumping into people I knew meant lots of heys and hellos and how are yous, always parting on “We should catch up sometime” and “I’ll see you soon,” promises that would rarely be fulfilled. Everyone was always going somewhere, running on their own ticking timeline—“I wish I could talk more but I’m late to class!”—like invisible stopwatches that were always just a few seconds apart.

Friendships that seemed obvious (“I share three classes with her; we’ll probably end up close”) never seemed to blossom in the right way, and the ones that were random and utterly spontaneous seemed to take off more than the obvious choices. Was I doing something wrong?

My college social experience so far was not fitting into the mold that I had brought from high school.

Through the ups and downs of my freshman semesters, I realized little by little that a college experience was never going to fit my high school expectations.

So, I am lifting the cookie-cutter this year.

I don’t have a friend type. I don’t have one group.
I freely engage in multiple circles and still other shapes, aiming to diversify, aiming to build a kaleidoscope of personalities whose experiences I can learn from and dance among. College is still a sea of people, but I’m finding my way through.

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A zine for young people, by young people.

HopeIRL is a project of Hopelab, a nonprofit social innovation lab based in San Francisco that works with young people to co-create tech products that improve health and happiness. 

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