I haven’t had to make new friends in at least six years. I forgot how to. Starting college at the University of Maryland with about 30,000 other undergraduate students terrified me because it felt like a new chapter of my life, completely separate and unfamiliar to the one I knew so well. And it proved true. I could no longer call myself the quiet, established journalism student who competed on the swim club for 11 years and never missed a student council meeting.
The labels that dominated high school disappeared like everyone said they would.
That made me both excited and apprehensive at the thought of starting completely fresh.
All my older friends from home–a suburb outside of Pittsburgh–who already experienced college gave me words of comfort like, “You’ll love it. It’s a whole new world. Just think, in a few months a bunch of random strangers are gonna be your new best friends.” And I thought, how could I even make better friends than the ones I already had? Part of me felt scared to lose my friends from home. After all, is it really as easy as they say to recreate a lifetime of bonds in one school year?
When I first got to my non-air conditioned dorm in the peak of the late-August heat, I greeted my roommate with a sweaty hug and a wipe of my brow. That night, the heat didn’t dissipate as we hoped. We, along with pretty much everyone in the building, kept our doors open in hopes of the slightest breeze blowing into the room. My roommate just started talking about how she wanted to wander around and meet new people when two girls from down the hall suddenly poked their heads into our room. Thus, results the story of how we spent the rest of the night. We wandered to every single floor, introducing ourselves to every student who was willing to peek out their door.
I’m not usually one to talk much in a new group of people.
Even with my friends from home, I prefer to listen. But in a single night, I’ve never exchanged Instagram handles and Snapchat usernames with so many people. To think it was all because no one could stand feeling trapped in their dorm room that might as well have doubled as an oven.
This event led to the start of a friend group that started out with six people and grew to include 14 by the end of the first semester. Just a group of strangers, who soon became my closest friends in college–spent hours getting to know each other in the lounge. I questioned whether these fast friendships would last, but that week a few of the people I met the first night decided to make a late trip to the diner for juice, hence the name “juice run.” And from then on, our juice trips stuck. Any time the dorms got too warm or we felt overwhelmed with work, all any of us had to do was knock on a couple of doors to get people moving.
Even though we all lived in the same building, none of us shared many common interests.
We all took different classes, played different sports, studied at different places and participated in different clubs. Even so, just because we didn’t have much in common didn’t mean we had nothing to talk about. Juice runs offered us a time to catch up, destress or just laugh and enjoy ourselves.
A friend from home told me, “don’t worry about finding friends in college, they’ll find you,” and it turned out to be some of the best advice I’ve ever gotten. I worried so much about recreating old friendships, but now I’m a part of this giant, diverse group who are nothing like my friends from home–and I love that. So thanks to the August heat for bringing us together, the juice runs for keeping us together and my friends for having my back countless times during my first year of college.