Friendship at BU
A “101” Guide to Finding and making friends at Boston University
Written By: Chanel Thorpe | Edited By: Mateo Daffin
Throughout this semester, I’ve been getting Tiktoks about how someone can know so much about you despite only being friends for less than a year. Each video reminded me that despite having only arrived at college just months ago, my friends here knew me better than my friends back home. I began to wonder whether everyone experienced this phenomenon. Being a CGS student, the tight-knight environment allowed me the opportunity to form strong connections with other people in the school. While I was fortunate to forge these relationships, I know that navigating college friendships can be challenging. To learn more and better understand the friend making process at BU, I thought I’d interview my friends and see whether they could provide some insights. Their responses gave a helpful overview of some things new students can expect when making friends and some advice to make the process a little easier.
One of the fundamental concerns about making friends is where are you going to meet them in the first place. Personally, I met my friends either through Instagram or through orientation. Gradually, I also began to make friends in my classes which was a common response from those I interviewed. Another common factor that I’ve heard anecdotally from other Charcoal members was that while many people made friends in their classes, they also made friends through clubs. Clubs are great spaces to find like-minded people with similar-interests. They’re a nice way to convene after a hard week to talk about something that’s fun rather than a major assignment coming up in class. There are plenty of ways to find these clubs too! Almost all clubs will have an Instagram where they keep viewers updated on any events or e-board position openings. Other than Instagram, there is also Splash! Splash is an event at the beginning of each semester where all the BU clubs have stands at Nickerson Field and tell you about their organization. You have the chance to sign up for newsletters, GroupMes, and many other forms of communication. If you’re looking for something more lowkey, a lot of these clubs host events where you can meet people too.
After learning where most people make friends, I thought I’d ask about maintaining these friendships. Staying close with people can be hard, especially during breaks when everyone becomes separated for long stretches of time. Balancing your homework with your relationships can also be difficult and stressful. I expected that many people would drift apart but the responses I got back were generally positive with most believing they won’t grow apart from their current friends. When asked whether she thinks she’ll stay close with her current friends, Micaela Henry (CGS 24’ CAS 26’) told me “Certain people will definitely be closer. Some people are just fun to hang out with while others are more deeply connected with you on an interpersonal level. And some people are there for a season.” Nailah Charles (CGS 24’ QST 26’) had a different perspective on the question, “Definitely, in the beginning I was selective and deliberate in choosing friends.” As a freshman entering a totally new environment, it is common to want to be friends with everyone. Being deliberate in choosing your friends, however, helps you understand what you value in a friendship and allows you to form stronger bonds.. As a CGS student, I saw the same group of people in class everyday so there wasn’t a lot of separation between us. Although we ended up staying close, it’s still perfectly normal to lose touch with people in your classes. Maybe you’ll end up hanging out every once in a while or just saying hi to them on the street. As Micaela said, “some people are there for a season.” Of course, if you like them and there’s a strong connection, definitely work towards maintaining the friendship but just know that pressure to do so isn’t necessary.
Those conversations led me to my next question about whether they felt obligated to keep their current friends. College is often lonely. There are times where you have to be comfortable being by yourself. Sometimes people are not comfortable acknowledging this and rather go out. It may bring someone to force themselves to hang out with people regardless if they’re close or not. This concept made me wonder if people felt as though it’s an obligation to stay friends with people for the sake of having people to hang out with. Phyliss (CGS 24’ CAS 26’) told me “I don’t feel an obligation, and I think this mainly comes from the types of friends I have surrounded myself with. We don’t put pressure on each other, and understand each other. They’re also black.” In short, it seems like the choice in choosing friends has a huge impact on how we value our friendships. Let’s be real. Phyliss said something crucial pertaining to her own identity with being a black person at BU. In every space, being black is going to be unique. Black friendships are unique in themselves and bring a sense of community, one of love, understanding, and transparency. In fact, there are plenty of Black, African, Latinx, and Caribbean clubs at BU. It is almost impossible to not find an event to go to each week. You will be seeing and talking with your people here. They’re everywhere, just make sure to keep an eye open.
Before finding your community, however, there might be the valid concern over how you will be treated at BU. Culture shocks are completely normal when coming from a different state or country. Because of this, I figured that I’d try to alleviate some of this worry by asking my friends how nice they would rate the people at Boston University. They affirmed my own opinions, and all of them rated people at BU either a 4 or higher on a 1-5 scale of 1 being not nice and 5 being really nice. For me, when I arrived at BU, I was already familiar with the New England weather, seasons, and people since I’m from Connecticut. Despite my lack of culture shock, however, I still think the people here are very nice and welcoming. Even as a Caribbean-American student, I haven’t had any negative experiences nor as a black girl at BU. Both the people inside and outside of the Caribbean community have only been kind to me. One thing I have noticed, however, is that people generally like to stick to their close friends and don’t typically branch out to others. Most freshmen arrive with the desire to connect with others so don’t be afraid to reach out to people because they are thinking the same worried thoughts.
The most interesting question I decided to ask in the interviews about how much social media impacts friendships? Using Instagram and other apps like Facebook or Snapchat definitely plays a role in the ways people make or keep friends at BU. Friendship insecurity is real. It is not uncommon to compare yourself and your friendships to others. Seeing people in large groups, going out often, and internalizing that to compare it to yourself is dangerous. It leads you down a path of believing other people are having a much better experience than you which may not be true at all. One of the more insightful takes I received was from Nailah who said, “People try to prove themselves to people back home.” Sometimes when people move away from home to a completely different place, they want the people at home to know that they’re having a good time. They don’t want people to assume that they aren’t doing well because it’s hard to be vulnerable and honest when they are so far away. This is a common feeling. A big part of the “college experience” is trying new things with new people. Having a lot of friends that you feel secure with is another common aspect of the “college experience.” People long for that feeling in a friend group, especially if they’ve never had it before. Social media shouldn’t be taken seriously at all.
To end the interviews I asked about what tips they had for incoming freshmen or anyone that is trying to make friends at BUor college in general. Answers varied across the board. “Trust your gut and head,” Nailah says. Micaela is a little bit more specific: “If you ask someone to hang out and exchange socials or numbers you have to actually put in the numbers! If you don't click with someone let it go it's alright!” It’s very easy to make plans but to actually go through with them is the challenge that a lot of people face in college. Try making an effort to connect with people and don’t rely on the idea that someone else will reach out first! Jason Senecharles (CGS 26’, CAS 24’) gives another great tip for those looking for friends, “ Just go talk to people you think would be interesting. Everyone’s super nervous and trying to make friends so don’t be afraid to put yourself out there.” Reaching out to others isn’t as scary as you think. It’s how I met a lot of great people that I still talk to today!