Admittedly, I am a sucker coming-of-age movies such as Legally Blonde and Clueless. Although they are cheesy and quite juvenile, they do capture the important contributions made by friendships to personal growth, and, as I am navigating through college, I cannot find this to ring more clearly. However, many college students and I find ourselves faced with a major problem: in an environment marked by competition, stress, and impersonality, how do we establish and maintain relationships with others?
Tip 1: Orientation and Pre-College Special Programs
Orientation is an awkward time: you are thrust into a foreign environment with a large group of strangers and one or two overly excited guides; yet, in the midst of this chaos, friendships can be formed.
Because everyone in the orientation event is an incoming student and equally as ignorant to campus life, it is easy to form bonds and relationships with those around you as you explore the school, events, and workshops orientation has to offer. Additionally, people are randomly assigned to orientation groups, so there is a greater chance for you to find friends outside your major–unless you’re a Biology major at UCI.
In these programs, you are highly encouraged to make friends with those around you since the day is fast-paced and there is little to no alone time. Although making friends is not mandatory, going through the motions of the day with someone to converse with as you walk to and from your dorm area to the dining hall or the auditorium is definitely a bonus.
Tip 2: Initiate the Conversation
Unlike in high school, a typical lower division lecture at college consists of one professor in the front and around 400 students, so you’re likely to be sitting around at least another person in every lecture. Although it might seem very intimidating, you should try to initiate the conversation; trust me, as an introvert myself, I have to go through countless mental hurdles to do so. Perhaps, the person sitting next to you is itching to talk to you but is unable to find the courage to!
If a lecture is too intimidating a place, then try talking to those around you in your discussion sections, which are typically smaller with around 20 students and a teaching assistant (TA). This cozy, intimate setting can be more encouraging: start with asking questions pertaining to a worksheet or activity because you can still come out with more expertise if not a new friend.
Tip 3: Schedule a Study Date
Friends who suffer together stay together. Meeting up and studying with friends is a great way to answer lingering questions or just to finish up assignments. However, the benefit of having friends around as opposed to studying alone is that you’ll have someone with whom you can share your stress and trauma.
For example, I had a class called Analytical Chemistry Lab, which is a quintessential weed-out class for chemistry majors: the concepts are foreign and, due to the pandemic, the lab class was taught remotely. Initially, I tried to study alone, and my test grades were abysmal since I wasn’t understanding the procedures and underlying ideas. My test grades definitely reflected my lack of comprehension. I knew I had to change my ways. Fortunately for me, I had made a few friends in the Chemistry department, and all of whom were happy to do the assignments with me. Together, we tolled through the confusing and abstract concepts all the while complaining to each other. I came out of that class with a profound love for Analytical Chemistry and my friends.
Tip 4: Join Extracurricular Activities
One of the easiest ways to establish a friendship is through joining clubs: because each club has a special interest, you and other members already have a solid common ground and from which you can build a relationship. For example, I am a member of Morning Sign Out (MSO), an organization that is dedicated to spreading scientific literacy through articles, and other MSO writers are also interested in writing and scientific developments. Thus, I can initiate conversations from that angle and gradually branch out to other topics.
Of course, shared interest isn’t special to just club members; far from it. You can have shared interests with people in your research lab or internships. However, the principle is universal: use that shared interest as a foundation to establish a friendship.
Tip 5: Plan Hangouts
Right across the street from UCI is what anteaters call UTC, a plaza of restaurants and other recreational businesses. Because of our horridly large breaks–we had four hours between some of our classes–my friends and I would have lunch and boba at UTC. We would sit around a table much like the main characters in Friends and talk about our days and stressors. This casual hang out is the lifeline of our relationships: through this opportunity, we all have a chance to catch up with one another.
For many students hanging out with your friends during the term is a close-to-impossible task due to busy, conflicting schedules. The antidote is planning far in advance. Start coordinating the hang-out at least two weeks in advance, so everyone is aware and can make time!