I still can't count, as I neared the end of high school, how many times I heard the cliché that college would be the best four years of my entire life. (Funny enough, I remember hearing the same thing about high school...) The picture that was painted by the adults in my life was that of a big adventure of self-discovery fraught with challenges, yet destined to be filled with unforgettable moments I would fondly recall for years to come.
In practice, it's not nearly so dramatic. Certainly not a consistent whirlwind of spontaneous adventures and caffeine-fueled all-nighters. Despite its tendency to be somewhat over-hyped, I've loved going to college, and graduating next year will be bittersweet. Yet, the challenges unique to the experience are something I likely won't miss. Like any university student, I've battled bouts of homesickness and the seemingly black hole of finals week, but nothing I couldn't handle. The only thing that's really thrown me is the enigma of the college friendship.
Making friends in high school is, relatively speaking, easy. Throw a bunch of disgruntled teenagers into the same building for five days per week for four years, and groups will eventually form. The size of the bunch only increases the number (and sometimes the variety) of the groups. People do come and go, groups do break up and reform, but once the system is established, it's often reluctant to change. While the system has flaws (it's basically a breeding ground for drama), participation comes with a certain sense of security. Once you've found your group, you're good to go.
College completely blows this system out of the water.
All of a sudden, you're dropped into a completely foreign environment. Few people know each other, many are far from home for the first time, and everyone is going in different directions. It's a wonder half of us don't race home after the first week. Suddenly, the high school system, despite its flaws, starts looking pretty good. If you don't latch onto someone by day three, you're left to scramble.
Despite that harsh reality, the anarchistic nature of college social life has its benefits. For the first time, you're able to make friends because you want to, not because you have to. Being alone in college is nothing like being alone in high school. You don't need a group to survive; you just need you, and sometimes, it's a refreshing change of pace.
Being freed from the high school system means you can have have friends that fit into different facets of your life. They don't need to be all friends, or even know each other. And if things don't ultimately work out (like it or not, people do change), your entire social life doesn't come crumbling down as a result.
Friendship in college can be challenging and difficult to grasp at the beginning, but the cliché that you make some of your best friends there is true. You find each other, one way or another, and they are the ones right beside you when those unforgettable moments happen.