Friends by Convenience

Why keeping friends at UVA can be harder than making them.

When I arrived at the University of Virginia my first year, I felt as though I had finally reached my happy place. It seemed like it was sunny every day, there were so many new people to meet, and I was excited to find that my suitemates were nice. Everyone seemed to be really content with their lives, and so was I. Those first few months when I was meeting new people, going out to concerts and parties and taking my first college classes were so exciting to me that I will always look back at those moments and smile.

I would definitely say that I transitioned into college well. I wasn’t nervous about people or timid in class, I shot into first-year like a rocket on full blast, taking advantage of every opportunity that I encountered. I declared my archaeology major right away, joined a club sports team and managed to go out with my friends on weeknights and still get decent grades. The novelty of starting college was like a high to me, preventing me from ever getting down enough to miss my family or friends from home.

At the beginning of second-year, however, the homesickness that usually hits at the start of college smacked me in the face with full-force. I had seen my friends from high school over the summer and realized that the connection that I had with them was missing in the majority of my friendships at UVA. So many of the wonderful people I had met during first-year fell off the grid during the summer except for the occasional Snapchat.

In fact, I’d say most of the friends I’ve had at UVA. have been what I like to call “friends by convenience.” These are the people who you click with instantly and love to hang out with when you are together in a dorm/class/club. However, you can’t bother to respond to their text immediately or see them if their apartment is far from yours. Most of the time it’s been the paradoxical combination of mutual laziness and insanely busy schedules that has caused these people to drift out of my life. And that’s caused me a lot of frustration because I rely heavily on friendships to get me through the little things– and the big ones, too.

My friends and I have talked about this in passing, including one of my current roommates, Carla.When I asked her if she had the same experience that I had during second-year, she replied that she encountered this issue a lot, just a year earlier than I did.

“I met a lot of my first friends in clubs,” she said, “and I found out that if I wasn’t going to club events where these people were, we would drift apart.”

She’s talking about that rush at the beginning of first-year when everyone is signing up for ten clubs and trying to figure out which one they fit into before they settle down with one or two. I signed up for the ski club, I signed up for club ultimate frisbee, I signed up for FYP– and only went to one meeting. I even considered STUDCo, which sounds ridiculous to me now, but at that point I was just trying to make friends. “Getting involved” was the thing to do.

Carla and I also talked about our first year dorms. Carla was in a hall-style dorm and said that she was friends with the girls who lived there but never got close to any of them besides her roommate. For her, it took a while to warm up to everyone.“Not until the end of first-year or beginning of second-year did I get close to people.” She said that the first month of school was hard, just because she didn’t have anyone to talk to about personal things. Most of her conversations didn’t go beyond the surface level– “Hi. What’s your name? Where are you from?” End of conversation.

My roommate first year was very different from me. I went random, and that’s ultimately what I got. We had different interests, different personality traits, different bedtimes– I was lucky that I got along with the girls who were in my suite. I spent my first year convinced that I had already found the girls I would be best friends with for all college, like how books and movies tell you it’s supposed to be. Over the summer after first year I realized that wasn’t the case, and it took me a while to get over it.

It’s just a lot harder to make close friends at such a big school.  You’re not constantly surrounded by the same people like you are in high school, you’re meeting new people every day and it takes a lot of effort to keep in touch. You and your friends both have to put in an equal amount of work to see each other during the busy school year.

My closest friends in college have shown this mutual appreciation and motivation to hang out. I joined the men’s rowing team September of my first-year as a coxswain, so I sort of had an instant group of people to be with. In the small community of my team, I definitely encountered the issue of people joining and quitting, trying to see if getting up at 5:00AM every weekday was worth it. But by the end of the year, I ended up with a whole new family of people who were just as excited to see me in the morning as I was to see them.

Three of my best friends are from the rowing team, two of them are rowers who I became friends with at the start of college, and one of them I talk to all the time even though she graduated last year. Another one of my good friends I met in the world’s worst philosophy class where we bonded over cute headbands and how lame our TA was. And my current roommates, well, I met one at a frat’s date function and the other while volunteering for Madison House.

It has been really hard for me to let go of people in my life because a lot of the time I feel like I’m admitting defeat. But after thinking it over and talking it out, I’m finally alright with letting go of those who are content with seeing me only once a semester when we run into each other in Alderman.

Friendships take work. I had to experience the engaging, exciting, and jam-packed college life to understand how difficult it can be to keep friendships– and how truly valuable all my friendships are.

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