Making Friends In College: It’s Okay to Talk to Strangers

Cara and her friends

by Cara

“A month ago I didn’t know you existed and now I’m sitting in your room!” I recently pointed out to one of my new friends at the University of St. Thomas. Making friends at college happens much more quickly than in high school, especially when you live so close to each other.

In high school there isn’t as much time for socializing, except during the time between classes or at lunch. At college there’s plenty of time to see your friends, whether it’s grabbing lunch together, forming study groups, or exploring the surrounding neighborhood. I had met a few other people who would also be attending St. Thomas, but I didn’t have any close friends when I first moved in. The typical questions of “Who will I sit with at lunch?” and “Who will I hang out with on the weekend?” crossed my mind occasionally. I’ve been on campus for over a month now and my fears have certainly eased.

I moved into my dorm four days earlier than most students because I was training to be a Tommie Ambassador. Tommie Ambassadors are a group of St. Thomas students who help high school students learn more about the school through tours, lunch, overnight visits and more.

After our daylong Tommie Ambassador training sessions we had free time. I would always accept offers to hang out with other ambassadors, to watch a movie or just sit around talking. Taking advantage of programs that introduce you to college early is a great way to meet new people. On an almost daily basis I run into students I met during the training. It’s always nice have someone say hello or wave to you on the walk to class.

The people who live in the same building as you do will also quickly become your friends. It’s much easier to hang out with friends who live footsteps away from you rather than planning out in advance whose house you’ll hang out at and how you will get there. Three of the four friends I spend most of my free time with live in my building; two of them live on the same floor, just down the hall from my room.

The first few days my residence hall was fairly quiet because only my fellow Tommie Ambassadors, athletes and Resident Assistants (RAs) had moved in. When all the others moved in that weekend, everyone wanted to introduce themselves, and campus activities made it easy to make new friends. We all attended a cookout in the neighborhood and brunch in the dining hall together. The RAs also thought of ice breakers for us to play, and while the games may seem silly, they really do help you remember each other’s names!

One night after a meeting with everyone on my floor to go over rules for living in the dorm, I thought I would just head back to my room. A few minutes later there was a knock on my door, and outside stood Josephine and Brittany, two girls I had met earlier at the cookout. They invited me to attend the Step Afrika show that was being held in the St. Thomas student center because they recognized my name on the door.

We met the fourth friend when we decided to be outgoing. The day before classes started, all freshman at St. Thomas march through the Arches on campus in matching purple t-shirts to symbolize us joining the Tommie family. When graduation arrives in four years, we will march out of the Arches.

Cara at the St. Thomas Arch with her friends

While eating dinner in the main dining hall that night, Josephine noticed there was a student in a one of our matching purple shirts sitting alone. I was hesitant to agree that inviting a stranger to eat with us was a good idea. Would he think we were lame or weird?

He accepted our offer and ended up spending the rest of the evening going to events on campus with our group. It’s now weeks later and we’re all still friends. An act of kindness and a moment of being outgoing can lead to friendships, so don’t be afraid to say hi to new people.

Just remember that all freshmen are experiencing the same feelings and we all can use a new friend when we’re in a new place.