Growing nostalgic for events that only happened six months ago seems ridiculous, but recently, I’ve been nostalgic for my first days on campus when my biggest concern was trying to establish a friend group.
Before even opening a letter saying I’d been accepted to the University of Maryland, I was warned repeatedly that I needed to find my friend group within two to three weeks of arriving on the campus. Afterward, no one would be willing to meet new people. Stepping onto campus meant being sucked into the vortex of late-night TerpZone and Stamp Student Union activities in a race to find enough people to quickly latch onto. It seemed we were all trying to create a group as quickly as possible. I loved it. I looked around at the people I was with and knew I had succeeded. I’d found the group — the people who I’d experience the monumental college experience with, and just in time.
The first red flag should’ve been raised when I remembered what my orientation leader said something like: The freshman friend group always dies. I can’t remember what prompted them to say it, but I can imagine part of the warning included its unstable foundations.
Our group was stitched together by minimal mutual interests and hobbies, maybe a shared major, but there wasn’t anything deeper than that for a while. I’d only thought of the group for so long as a unit that would go out and study together that I failed to get to know some of them as people. They were an accessory, an ersatz of the most valuable assets from high school.
When the group fell apart, it felt like the end of everything. As hard as we fought to piece together what we had in October and November, the time between winter break proved detrimental. Saying goodbye to the friend group we worked so hard to create was like saying goodbye to a less mature, naive part of me — the part still concerned with the priorities of high school, unprepared for the crushing reality of college. It’s tied into the easy end of summer days when college was still a part of the near future.
But when the friends and connections I’d hoped to establish early on fell through, I realized the worst fear went beyond not having the group. It was now the sudden realization that I might be alone on the earliest parts of my adulthood journey. How could I have my coming-of-age moments and truly live without the correct people by my side?
Around campus, the large groups I had seen early in the year walking around at night or taking up the long tables in the Yahentamitsi Dining Hall had dwindled come February. Were we all dealing with the same loss of our idyllic first-semester friend groups?
But out of this breakup, a new, smaller group formed, held together by our understanding of each other’s journey to personal growth. The freshman friend group as I’d known it might’ve died, but it paved the way for the mature friendships I’d need to have to carry on in college. I didn’t need to be surrounded by multiple different people at once to know I was important, nor to continue experiencing all I dreamed about when applying to college.
I’m still friends with the others from the original group, but it’ll never be the same. It hurts to look back on what we lost, but it matters more to learn to leave behind the values of adolescence and embrace the real world. That might be the most valuable thing I’ll learn on this campus.