Before I begin talking about friendship, I would like to give a disclaimer. My experiences, and the experiences of the people I have interviewed, are not universal. These reflections on how friendships change do not necessarily relate to how everyone else’s friendships change – though perhaps my general comments and the interviews I’ve conducted will help you, dear reader, understand the nature of your changing friendships.
I have interviewed people to find out about three different kinds of friends – high school friends, college friends and roommates. The interviews provide a characterization of the different kinds of friendships that we can use to compare the friendships to each other.
Before getting into this characterization of friendship, I want to make some comments concerning the nature of college, for understanding the nature of college will help us understand how it is that college itself affects friendships.
College is an intense time for all of us. The change from living in your hometown with your family to moving to a totally new environment without – or with very little – familial support can be very stressful. Furthermore, we also have to adjust to a change in workload. But one of the biggest changes is your friend group. You go from being in a group of teenagers trying to find their stride in their formative years to being a young adult creating the building blocks of your life. The connections you make in college can feel very different from the ones in high school.
I first decided to approach a high school friend and ask her about her opinions on high school friendships. She described high school friends as those that she sits and “has lunch with.” She also says hi to those friends in the hallway and engages in some pleasant small talk with them.
When asked about how her friendships in high school had changed, my friend said that she does not really talk to them anymore. She said, “Instagram is enough to know about each other’s lives.”
From my friend’s statements, it seemed to me as though most people don’t have a special connection with their high school friends. However, when I compare these statements with my experiences of friendship in college, it becomes clear to me that I am closer to my college friends and that I have a more meaningful experience with my friends in college. I don’t fully understand why, but I think part of it has to do with the amount of time that I spend with my college friends, as opposed to my high school friends.
For example, on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, I have a biology class with my friends in it. That class meets for an hour each day, which means that I see my friends automatically for at least three hours a week, every week. Usually, my friends and I decide to work together to make sure that our homework is as accurate as possible, which means that I spend another three hours per week with my friends. This amounts to six hours total per week of contact with my friends.
Furthermore, if an individual has labs with a particular friend or other classes with that friend or if you just want to hang out with your friends on the weekends, then that bumps up the amount of time spent together anywhere from nine hours to 18 hours a week. If I had a boyfriend, I don’t think I would even spend that much time with him!
And what if your college friend happens to be your roommate? That means you probably see them around eight hours a day, or 74 hours a week. Your roommate might as well become your family.
I imagine that this seems like a huge amount of time to spend with your college friends. But, surprisingly, I never feel sick of them. I don’t want to sound cheesy, but I love every moment I have with them, and I think it’s worth my time to hang out with them – time is so expensive in college, I never get enough sleep.
Furthermore, I think that the structure of college classes is better because it gives people more opportunities to bond with each other. I think it’s so exciting to talk with a friend about what you just learned in class, and both of you can discuss these ideas to reach a better, shared understanding. I promise that when this happens, you will love class more because you understand what is going on a lot better. Or, it may be that the class sucks, and you can always trash it with your friend. Your friend wouldn’t mind. They probably hate it too. That’s why you’re friends!
In terms of roommates – it seems as though one spends a whole lot of time with one’s roommate. Even though not everyone feels the same way about their roommate, I think that my roommate and I will be friends forever. We all know that it can be really frustrating to live with a new person. However, my roommate and I chose to put all of the bad things aside, and not waste time fighting that we could be laughing together instead.
I think college friendships have introduced me to a new mindset: if you have a chance to get that close to a person, use it because you never know how lucky you are until it’s too late. Developing the ability to deal with conflict with your roommate and avoid spiraling into angry screaming fights will be useful for all your future relationships, romantic or not.
I’ll always remember this one day when I was walking back to the room, and when I opened the door to the dorm, my roommate said to me: “Oh my God, you know what’s crazy? You know when you can recognize your parents’ footsteps? I can recognize yours!”
The crazy part is that she has been living with me for only three weeks.
I’m sure that everyone thinks that college friendships are going to be defined by an insane amount of partying, or at least, by one party every weekend. While it is true that parties can definitely be part of the college friendship experience, this is definitely not the highlight of college friendships.
In college, you’ll spend your days guzzling excessive amounts of coffee and writing three essays a week. So your college friendships are likely going to reflect the need to maintain an academic schedule, and to maintain it sanely. College friends, then, are like little angels that help you get through everything difficult in college, which is what differentiates from the more superficial high school friend. Going through conflict strengthens friendships, trust me.