LoveND: Falling For Friendship

Author: Hailey Oppenlander

Hailey Web Fun

Dear Notre Dame,

The night that I moved in, I felt so lonely and cried by myself in my room. Not my freshman year—my sophomore year. 

My first year of college, I had almost no adjustment problems. Some of my friends from back home were having trouble transitioning, but I was the happiest I’d ever been in my life. I loved literally everything about school. I’d met so many new people, had so many incredible experiences and opportunities, and was really enjoying my classes. When fall break came, I was excited to go home and see my family, but was honestly upset to be away from school for even a week—I loved my new life at Notre Dame so much, and it became “my norm” so quickly.

Yet the beginning of this year was more difficult than last. 

Sophomore year feels like you’re supposed to have things together. People say that college gets even better once you’ve established yourself and know the ropes. I thought that once I was a sophomore, I would have a clear core friend group. But instead, I felt like I was still floating on the periphery. 

I knew a lot of people; that wasn’t the issue. I’d met some amazing people from so many realms and activities, too—my classes, my major, my clubs, through mutual friends, and more. Even though I knew incredible people, it felt like everyone was already part of an existing friend group within their dorm, except me. I interacted with lots of people, but I felt really lonely because I wasn’t part of a defined group. I’d have lunch and dinner with different friends throughout the week, but when Friday and Saturday rolled around, it seemed like everyone was hanging out with their own core group from their dorm.

The first few games of the football season this year, I’d watch from my window as students left their dorms with their friends, all dressed in matching gear. I’d get ready alone, and wonder what it was like to live in the same hallway as all your friends, get ready for gameday, walk out to tailgates, and stand in the student section together. As I left my dorm alone, I felt miserable. I knew that I’d see friends at tailgates and at the game, but I didn’t want to feel like an intruder in all the different friend groups. I didn’t want to bounce around from circle to circle; I wanted to be undeniably part of a group. 

In Moreau (a class that all first-years have to take), we watched a video by a Cornell student about her difficult college transition. When I first watched it as a freshman, I honestly couldn’t relate much. I began my freshman year with a core friend group, having dinner with my quad-mates almost every day. People associated the four of us with one another, and when the weekend came, I knew that whatever we did, we would do it together. I thought we’d be friends for the rest of our lives and live in another quad for our sophomore year, but as time went on, we settled into our different rhythms and went in our own directions. 

When I watched that video again this year, I totally understood what she was saying. It felt like everyone had their “posse,” and I couldn’t enter into one because it was too late.  

After a couple weeks of calling my mom crying about it, I decided to go to one of the University Counseling Center’s “Let’s Talk” sessions to discuss my friendship issues. Even though I felt silly crying about friendships when I admitted I’d met a lot of great people here at Notre Dame, I thought I couldn’t judge the worth or longevity of these friendships because I wasn’t part of any particular group holding the relationships together.

It took me a while to realize it, but friendships and friend groups aren’t stagnant. Before I came to college, it seemed like every Notre Dame grad talked about how the friends they made during Welcome Weekend have been their friends for the rest of their lives. I know now that friendships grow and change—and that’s the beauty of them. New relationships come along in unexpected places. My RA has become one of my closest friends in Badin, even though I hardly knew her last year. Spending more time with people can make you realize how much you enjoy their company. A girl in my a cappella group and I realized we’re much more similar than we thought, and this year we’ve started hanging out a lot more often. And sometimes, you don’t realize how wonderful a friend is until they do something thoughtful for you. Just yesterday, a friend I met on the second day of freshman year came to my dorm to bring me one of my favorite desserts from the dining hall, since I was too busy to make our lunch date that day. 

Although I planned to finish this blog in one sitting, I’ve had so many wonderful interruptions—chatting with my RA who just got back from a grad school interview, catching up with a freshman in my section, and sharing crazy stories with friends in a study room in their dorm.  

Sometimes I still feel a bit like I’m on “the outside.” Other days, it’s such a blessing to interact and hang out with so many different people. It took me too long to figure this out, but just because I’m not in the same core friend group as someone doesn’t mean that our relationship isn’t cherished. I’m really glad that I didn’t have my friendships set in stone after only one year, because otherwise I would have closed myself off to some amazing relationships. 

I might not have “a posse” or a squad group chat, but I have so many beautiful friends with different interests, personalities, and gifts that make my days here so enjoyable and memorable.