Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Advice for College Freshmen (Part 3)

(Read Part 1 and Part 2)

Find Friends
At college, you are surrounded by many people your own age. United by common interests and classes, you have the opportunity to make friends that could be close to you the rest of your life. Don't let your social life crowd out needed study time, but don't totally do without a social life either. You need companionship for encouragement and for needed breaks!

Some friends will be those that are merely superficial - you see each other in a certain class and share commonality there. Some you will spend a little more time with, united by a common major perhaps. There will be others that become close and truly dear to your heart. Be wise in your choice of friends, especially those that become close. As 1 Corinthians 15:33 says, "Do not be misled: 'Bad company corrupts good character.'" Does this mean that you entirely avoid those that are not living a life sold out to the Lord? No - you are called to be salt and light, and your interactions with them may lead them to a better path. But you should be discerning about those that you choose to spend most of your time with, for they will influence you even if you don't realize it.

At college, people are nearly always around, so it's easy to just "hang out" whenever you are free. However, developing good friendships does require intentionality. If you are a planner and/or prefer quiet areas to study, like myself, you may not be around to be asked to go with people at a moment's notice for pizza, a movie, or a game. If you want to spend quality time with a certain person or a group, plan something and don't hesitate to invite people! If you wait around to be invited or for things to just happen, they often never do. Everyone will have a busy schedule, so plan times to be with friends. This is something that I wish I had done a little more.

Pray with and Encourage Friends
Don't let all of your time with friends be just hanging out and goofing off. Plan a Bible study or attend one together. Ask what your friends are facing and pray for and even with them. It can be awkward at first, but the benefits are great! You will grow together as you share your deepest needs.

Again, I wish I had done this more. However, I enjoyed going to Reformed University Fellowship on Tuesdays and Sunday Night Fellowship with friends for singing, prayer, and teaching. The second semester, my roommate and I also prayed together each night before bed. It was a wonderful time to reflect on the events of that day and look towards the next, and lift each other and our families, friends, and stresses up to the Lord. It brought good closure to each day.

Do little things for friends as well. Write them an encouraging note, put a card in their mail box or under their door, share treats, and give them plenty of smiles and encouraging words. God may use you to encourage them just when they need it most.

Enjoy Your Roommate
It can be hard to adjust to sharing a room with someone else, especially if you never met that person before you arrived at college. However, this is a great opportunity to have a built-in friend!

Just as with other friends, sometimes you have to be intentional to get to know your roommate. It won't always just happen because you share a room, especially if your schedules are completely opposite! Find time to just talk about your families, likes, and dislikes, and plan to meet for meals or go off campus for a special treat.

You don't have to be identical to your roommate to get along. But, if you are able to choose a roommate, do take into consideration how orderly you like your room, what you like to listen to or if you prefer it quiet, and when you prefer to go to bed and get up in the morning. It's the little things that help make your dorm a home!

If you have a roommate who is a complete opposite, don't gossip about her or groan about your rooming situation. Pray for her, be her friend no matter what, and honestly talk through how you would like things to be. If the two of you don't get along, you take the first step in building a friendship. You will be glad if you do!

Also realize that you don't have to keep room with your first roommate if things really don't work out. Most colleges allow you to switch even after the first semester if needed. My first roommate and I got along well, but we were very different in terms of schedules, classes, and groups of friends. She also wanted her own room, so the second semester I roomed with a friend I'd made, and it turned out to be one of the best arrangements!

Stay Connected to Home
I made some great friends at college, a few that I still regularly keep in contact with. However, as close as you get to people you live, eat, go to class, and hang out with, there is still nothing like your family and friends at home. Most of the friends at college will be somewhat temporary; you'll be with them at college and are united by common things there, but when you are apart, you realize you don't have much in common. Make sure that you keep your relationships around home strong so that you'll have people to go back to.

Over breaks you realize how quickly you can slip back into home life and how little contact you feel you need to have with those people at school that you talked to every day. This isn't to say that you should cut them off completely - you should take the time to keep up your friendships even when you're not together - but you should be aware that the most lasting ones are often ones you already have.

Even if you're away from home, we have great ways to stay in contact with those you left. Email, Facebook, phone calls, and good old-fashioned letters are just some of the way to keep up-to-date with each other. I sent and received so many letters while at college that the post office workers had memorized my name and box number! =)

Although the primary reason to attend college are for the academics (which we'll get to later!), you have the opportunity to make lasting friendships during this time, both at college and at home. You should work and study hard, but relationships are what will last and be most memorable.


Miriam Rebekah said...

And even you and your roommate are complete opposites, that doesn't mean you won't get along. It depends a lot on your personality, whether you can blend with opposites or you don't get along.

Just a thought.

Clare Marie-Therese Duroc said...

Spot-on advice once again.

The roommate part has me a bit jittery, because I grew up in a family with six brothers... having another girl in the house would seem strange, but sharing a room with one is just not something I'm used to.

It's going to be different, but at the same time it's going to be thrilling! I love my brothers dearly, but I have noticed the lack of female companionship. It'll just be a bit of an adjustment, that's all.

Anna Naomi said...

Miriam Rebekah: I certainly didn't mean to imply that opposites can't get along, but looking back I can see how it could be taken. I've gotten along just fine with opposite personalities! It is a little harder if you are opposites in other things (going to bed, getting up, wanting no music/loud music, etc.) but it can be worked through with grace!

Clare: Glad it's helpful to you! I'm sure you'll do fine with a roommate. You'll probably have a lot of fun to have close female friends!

marykhris said...

Love you Anna!
I really enjoyed rooming with you and thank God for our friendship.
Great series! It is quite helpful and encouraging. :)

Tiffany Hope said...

Thank you for your wonderful posts with the wisdom God taught you last year. I arrived yesterday as a freshman at Patrick Henry College. I have a question--How do you suggest finding friends? Everyone here is very freindly, but my hearts longs for a kindred spirit. Right now, no one truly knows me--knows my heart--and it's so hard and lonely. I'd love to hear how you found "bosom friends."


Miriam Rebekah said...

Anna, I know you didn't mean to imply anything, I was just suggesting another idea. =)

I hope you're doing well!

Anna Naomi said...

MaryKhris: Love you too! I really enjoyed having you as my roommate.

Tiffany Hope: Finding friends takes time. As long as we long for and need friendship right away, building friendships, especially those really close ones, is gradual. It was near the end of my first semester that I really started getting close to some friends there. Miriam's and my friendship has been many years in the making. Before that, I had prayed and longed for a close friend for quite a while. So my advice is to pray that God would lead you to a close friend, but to also be intentional in getting to know people. Invite people you would like to get to know better to do something together, or just go to a lot of the get-togethers on campus. Eat with people in the cafeteria and ask them questions about themselves. You never know when and where a good friendship will begin!

Miriam Rebekah: I know. =) I hope you're doing well as well. Love you!