“We should totally get coffee sometime!” It’s Tuesday afternoon and you’ve just run into someone you vaguely remember meeting at a party – a friend of a friend, or was it the suitemate of that girl you met at OIS? You’re on Cross Campus, and both clearly heading somewhere else. Will you actually get coffee? Absolutely not. Will you say this anyhow? Absolutely.
Scheduling a coffee date that is doomed to fail is one of countless rituals we perform in our relentless pursuit to meet and befriend ever more people on campus. Repeated time and again, it becomes as insincere as it is perfunctory.
Coming to college is unquestionably terrifying, especially at a place like Yale where most students know almost nobody coming in and everybody appears hyper-accomplished and multitalented. It’s no surprise, then, that the first few weeks of most Yalies’ first years can feel like a mad scramble to make as many friends as quickly as possible. Talk to any junior or senior, though, and they’ll tell you that those initial friends are not the same ones that have stuck with them over the years. How, then, does one avoid falling into the trap of friendships of convenience as an incoming freshman?
I came to Yale at 21 years old after 32 months of compulsory military service in my home country. I attended a non-English-speaking religious public school, where I did very little academic work and graduated with high marks. We had no student council, no class president, no extracurriculars. This background of mine – completely alien to the archetypical first-year – made it rather difficult at times to relate to my classmates and build meaningful relationships with them. Over the course of this past year, however, I realized that my unique story was but one of many among my peers, and I forged incredible connections with people among whom I can’t wait to spend the next three years. Here, then, are my 5 tips to you, the Class of 2025, on how to make real friends at Yale:
- Go out. This may sound obvious, but nobody ever made friends by staying in their room. If you don’t deliberately seek new people out, you’ll restrict yourself to a small group of friends in your residential college and classes, and that’s the surest way to make friends of convenience who will disappear as soon as they meet new people. Get ahead on your work during the week so you can have more time on the weekends to meet people with whom you otherwise would not interact. Who knows, you might meet your new best friend in a Murray common room full of strangers on a Saturday night because you decided to drop by on a whim.
- Respect Dunbar’s Number. This is perhaps the opposite of the previous point. A classic first-year fallacy is to try to make friends with 100 people at once, only to discover that all of them are little more than acquaintances. Meet new people, but know your limits as a social creature and don’t overload yourself with new relationships, because you’ll be setting yourself up for failure. Keep your circle of close friends small and don’t fall prey to sunk costs – not everybody you hang out with has to become your new best friend, nor does every club you try out have to become your largest time commitment.
- Use your “ins”. I have very little in common with most 18-year-old Americans, so making friends with them wasn’t going to come easy. One of the most amazing things about student life at Yale, though, is the sheer number and diversity of affinity groups on campus. Each is different, of course, but they all aim to provide a home for their members and make them feel as welcome as they can. Seek out people who share your background, your ethnicity, your religion, your values, your interests, or your political beliefs; you’ll find yourself surrounded by like-minded people soon enough. Take the time to actually integrate into extracurricular groups – if you’re trying to join 10 clubs at once, you probably won’t develop a connection with any of them or their members.
- Reject imposter syndrome. It might feel like it some days, but not everyone at this school is more talented, accomplished, and interesting than you are. Have a personality! Don’t try to please everyone by being bland and “relatable”; people want to make friends with interesting people who leave an impression. Don’t be afraid to tell the world what you think or pursue the things you like, and don’t be tempted to always follow the crowd. Find role models in the classes above you, ask them for advice, and avoid the mistakes that they made.
- Remember what friendship is about. Like any other committal relationship, true friendship is about sacrifice and putting the needs of others before your own. If your friends aren’t willing to make some sacrifices for you, chances are that they aren’t very good friends. After this year, I can confidently say that true friends are the ones who pick you up from Yale Health in the middle of the day after a surprise surgical procedure, the ones who make you a bed in their suite when you’ve had a couple drinks too many, the ones who go out of their way to show you their hometown when you visit on a road trip over break, and the ones who spend all night debating God’s existence and simulation theory with you. The ones who perpetually reschedule plans, don’t move past small talk, and never check in to see how you’re doing? Not so much.
Most importantly, remember to have fun. Yale is full of incredible people who will make your college years that much brighter, but don’t worry if you don’t meet them in FOOT or during your first week. Good friends can take their time to come into your life, but you’ll know when you’ve found them. When you come to campus, you’ll find yourself in strange situations you could have previously never imagined on a daily basis, so be sure to make those memories with people who won’t become distant memories themselves.