Sophie Henry

Delaware is the second smallest state in the country. We couldn’t even grab the title of being the smallest… maybe then people would remember us. I love the 302, but if our state slogan was changed to “Delaware: Always the Bridesmaid, Never the Bride”, I wouldn’t be shocked. 

The “small town girl” trope has to me always seemed somewhat overplayed and oversimplified, and I never really thought of myself as one until I first got to Yale. The last time I had walked into a new school building, met new classmates and had first day jitters, I was sporting Velcro shoes because I had yet to master the intricacies and mysteries of shoelaces. Despite my excitement, I couldn’t fight off the tears that emerged the second my parents walked out the door and left me with all of the other terrified four-year-olds. Despite wanting to go to “big girl school” like my sister had before me, I realized that I had no idea what to expect and I was petrified of everything that stood in front of me. It’s a feeling that I will never forget, but that fear had been nothing compared to that which I experienced when I arrived at Yale.

I attended the same school, with the same people, for 14 years. All of my teachers knew me and my family before I was even assigned to their classes. My closest friends in the world were people that I met when I was five, people who knew me better than anyone else because they had grown up with me in such a small setting; so small that it seemed as though we were living moderately different versions of the same life. There were very few places where I did not feel as though I had a place, and there were even fewer times when I didn’t feel comfortable in certain social gatherings. This isn’t to say that I didn’t know what it meant to be an individual, because luckily, that had been instilled in me at an early age.

Going to college is overwhelming for every first year, but it felt as though I was somehow behind everyone else who would soon be making their way through the gates. I knew that we were all “new kids”, but I felt completely out of my depths because I had never been new. Anywhere. Arriving at Yale, it dawned on me that it was probably the first time that I was going to have to learn not only how to be around new people, but also come to terms with the fact that I must learn how to be comfortable not fitting in everywhere. The homogeneity of where and how I had grown up had shielded me from these lessons for the majority of my life. But transitioning to a new school, in a new place, with completely new faces leaves people grasping for some sense of belonging. I would be lying if I said that I was not seeking that sense of security.

During the first few months at Yale, I was looking for a place where I felt comfortable: whether it be an extracurricular group, or just a casual group of friends in which I felt welcomed and celebrated. The desire to find such a group can ultimately have adverse effects on anyone who is searching for a sense of belonging. Oftentimes, I felt as though I was somehow behind others in “finding a place.” Until I got here, I didn’t realize how many students already knew Yalies. Many had attended high school or various summer programs together, or were just from the same area. It almost felt like I was on an island; this feeling was perhaps exacerbated by the fact that I had come from a place where I felt as though I had those same built in connections wherever I went. It wasn’t exactly a rude awakening because new faces and experiences were exactly why I had wanted and decided to apply to Yale in the first place. Although I love Delaware, it sometimes felt like it was too small like I had stopped experiencing new things and new people by the time I was in middle school. Yet, this desire to branch out and carve my own path didn’t quite prepare me for how daunting life at Yale would be. Upon arrival, I felt like the world that I had grown up in was so much smaller than those of the people around me.

The desire to find a place as soon as possible was feeling like a necessity a need to have some sort of anchor that would make me feel secure, as I traversed a world that was so much different than the one I had known. In looking through a sea of strangers, I had no clue how to even begin to find the people and spaces that would make me feel like I had found a home. But, I think I made a wise decision in coming to terms with the fact that I didn’t have to fit in everywhere.

First years seem to have a proclivity for trying to adapt to every situation; they attempt to mold themselves to each group that they wander into because it seems safer to go with the flow rather than risk being rejected. They tell themselves that it’s part of the growth that is intrinsic in the college experience, but this is not the case. You have to be comfortable in knowing that you do not belong in certain groups or certain spaces. I realized that I would much rather recognize genuine friendship matches than try to fake any type of connection. I refused to alter my personality in order to find a place at Yale; I knew that would lead to feeling like I wasn’t truly a part of the group of people I had chosen to surround myself with because they didn’t know who I really was.

This process, I feel, was instrumental to finding “my people.” I was comfortable knowing that I wasn’t going to fit in everywhere because that was a part of my own growth. I won’t lie it was not easy by any means. The amount of times when I recognized that I was surrounded by people that I didn’t feel like I had a good connection with sometimes felt a bit discouraging as if I was doomed to perennially be in spaces where my entire personality was relegated to smiling politely and nodding when it seemed appropriate. The feelings of hopelessness were probably amplified by the fact that I had never done this before. Having a loving, supportive and secure group of people for years always made the situations when I felt that I didn’t fit in have much lower stakes than those situations at Yale.

But I persisted.

I have never been a person who needed to be friends with everyone. I haven’t even been a person who felt some sort of obligation to be liked by everyone. I didn’t want my time here to be spent settling for shallow conversations or walking on eggshells so as to not put anyone off to being my friend; that’s not who I am.

Through accepting that I wouldn’t click with everyone that I met, I feel as though my people found me rather than me looking for them. Actively looking for your people may result in you actively altering aspects of your own personality to befriend groups of people you may not have otherwise befriended. Maintaining who you are and the way that you operate will ultimately reveal those who are a good match. The friends that you make in college are the first relationships that you develop in the “adult world.” Many people have friendships from before college that they know will last a lifetime but when those friendships began, there was no guarantee that they would make the transition into adulthood.

Yes, finding your people takes time and sometimes your patience may wear thin; but in the end, it’s worth it. Making connections that you’re genuinely excited about not only in that moment, but also enthusiastic to build upon in the future is instrumental in finding happiness in a new place.


Simi Olurin |