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Where are my college friends?

It’s not like I haven’t tried… Our elder has some advice for a student who’s finding campus life lonely.

Dear EWC

I’m writing today because I feel very lonely. It’s nearing the end of my second semester at college and I still feel like I have no actual friends. At the beginning of the first semester, I was super friendly and enthusiastic with my peers. I met and hung out with so many people and different friend groups (probably around 60+), and yet, for some reason, they never wanted to hang out again after the first or second time. I felt very alone last semester, as these people, when I would reach out to them, would give a false excuse such as studying even though on social media they would post pictures of them partying or going into the city or they would just ignore my message. It was really hurtful and disappointing, especially because I really put myself out there as an introvert. During the first few weeks, I would go into the dining hall and introduce myself to and sit with people I didn’t even know in an attempt to make friends. I was also very confused because the people that I hung out with appear to always really like me; some of them have said things like, “Why is this the first time we’re hanging out with you?!” and described our time spent together as having been “so much fun”.

I don’t think I have been invited by more than three people this whole year, while I myself have extended at least 100 invitations to hang out, watch a movie, get dinner on campus or off, go to a party, etc. throughout this same period. This semester, I decided to tone it down because I thought people may have thought I was too overbearing except that did not really help either because only a few people have invited me to anything. I talk to people in my class daily that I sit nearby and we seem to get along well, yet they do not seem to want to hang outside of class, as they have not asked me to hang out and have turned down the one invitation that I decided to extend. I have also tried to make friends at several clubs, but experienced the same thing. I don’t know what to do. I’m friendly with so many people yet I do not have any friends really. I would say that I’ve had other friends in the past but we drifted apart and the friendships were short-lived. One friend admitted to me that she ignored me for four weeks straight even though she knew I was feeling very alone because she was mad at me for something she even said I did not do. Another friend recently canceled plans. There are two girls that I would say I’m friends with but they always complain about having so much homework and usually can only hang out with me for two hours a week. For some reason, I have barely any homework in comparison, meaning I have even more free time. I have no problem being alone sometimes, in fact, I enjoy being alone a lot, but I simply cannot deal with being alone nearly all throughout the school week minus class as well as the entire weekend. I have a single dorm as well which does not help.

Also, I do want to be clear that I do not bring up my lack of friends with people and feelings of loneliness; I think I have told three people total. According to my two friends and acquaintances, I come off as the fun, slightly crazy but in a good way girl, which I would agree with. I’m good with anything and hanging with anyone. In the past when people invited themselves to hang out with my friends and me, I have always answered “Of course!”. I feel like I am a good, considerate, and loyal friend, but I can’t seem to find decent friends here at college despite that. I don’t know what to do. I don’t think I can survive another 3 years like the past one I’ve had, but I have run out of ideas on how to change this situation. What do I do?

Mama-Joan replies

Yours is such an articulate letter. Being an introvert myself I could understand you and your situation very well. If you aren’t satisfied with my thoughts, do write again because another elder may be able to give more insight.
Here are my thoughts:
You are not alone. I believe there are many young people on campus who, like you, are forming friendships that look good in an Instagram photo and Facebook clip, but aren’t true friendships. As an outside observer, it looks like everyone has great friendships, but my guess is that most are temporary and fleeting. The question I have that wasn’t answered in your letter is: What is your major? What are you studying? What are your interests? When I was in college I was interested in theatre (not my major) and I became involved with the theatre groups on campus building sets, working on costumes and acting in plays. I believe you will find friends if you get involved/volunteer with clubs and groups that truly interest you… journalism, art, music, science. Then, when you connect with someone you have something of substance in common. Everyone needs friends… the trick is getting connected.
I encourage you to look for different living arrangements than the common dorm. When my sons went to college there were on-campus apartments where students had their own room, but shared a common living room and kitchenette… for my sons these “apartment” mates became close friends. Also, one of my sons joined a dorm that was for honor students which provided a “built-in” social group of like-minded students. Investigate to see if there are specialized dorms where like-minded students live together.
Like me, my sons were introverts, too. I always told them that they only needed one or two good friends. It occurs to me that you are trying to be friends with too many people and you seem to believe that you need to be popular and have a lot of friends. In the second paragraph of your letter you said you were invited out by three people over the course of the year. That’s significant… What happened to those budding friendships?
Most people have several different kinds of friends. We have friends that we like to play sports with, friends for shopping, coffee friends, etc. Try to accept your friends for who they are and “meet them” where they are. By that I mean, if certain friends can only hang out for a couple hours a week because of their study schedules, then accept that and enjoy your time together. Plan something fun for those two hours. Appreciate the time you have together with each particular friend.
I hope my thoughts are helpful to you. Do consider writing to other elders for additional insight.

Letter #: 439660
Category: Friendship

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