Leaving for university is a very emotional experience, one which I remember vividly nearly ten years later. It was September 2009, and I was convinced my whole life was waiting for this moment and living was just about to start.
I was 18 and about to taste freedom, independence and a bunch of new relationships and experiences were just around the corner. Including meeting my ‘friends for life’.
I fully expected to meet a group of like-minded individuals during my three years at university, picturing swapping outfits, having girly sleepovers and living together in harmony. Although I had a good group of friends at home, I’d seen all of the older kids at school leave their homes for uni, arriving back at Christmas with tales of drinking frolics, bonding sessions and future plans. I couldn’t wait to get stuck in.
However, a month later, I remember sobbing into my pillow at my halls of residence when I found myself alone in the flat on Halloween weekend. Most of my flatmates had gone home for the weekend, and I hadn’t really bonded with anybody from my lectures to call upon to get dressed up and go out. I felt like I’d failed at university already.
Maybe I had tried too hard and came across clingy? Maybe I was setting unrealistic expectations on what my friendships should look like? Maybe I had been too distracted by my romantic relationship, focusing on making long-distance work with my then-boyfriend who lived back at home.
This continued throughout my time at university – I met lots of people, had romantic relationships and even lived in a girls-only house in my final year, but still didn’t feel like I connected with a group of people like I so dearly wanted. I graduated, grateful for the one friend that I knew I would keep it contact with (and still do to this day).
After graduating, I realised that what I had been searching for was there all along.
My childhood friends, my school friends who I had left back at home – they had been there the whole way through. They were the people who I reached out to, who I went home to see, who visited me in my tiny student rooms – and although they lived 60 miles down the road, we still kept in touch every day. I felt awful that I hadn’t seen it that way, and I am so grateful for them now.
I also met my friends for life during my first graduate job. We bonded over our love of ‘Mean Girls’, coffee, fad diets and our detest at spreadsheets. These friends became not only my work friends but my best friends. Even when we all parted ways with our current employer, we still kept that bond when we moved on to other places.
If there’s one thing I learnt, it’s that friendships can’t be forced. Sparks can appear when you are least expecting them to – and with the right people, you can hit it off straight away and it will feel like you’ve known each other forever.
I now have several ‘friends for life’ – none of which I met at university. When it comes to friendships, male or female, it’s definitely about quality rather than quantity.
So if you are currently at university, or if you have recently left – don’t worry if you feel that you didn’t take away any meaningful relationships. Look at those around you who you are already close to, and never forget that friendships can form in the most unlikely places.