Written by Victoria Nuñez
As a freshman, it’s overwhelming to walk in on orientation day and be surrounded by the people with whom you will spend the next four years. You’ll meet people in your dorm, in your classes, clubs, and work. Some friendships are natural consequences of the environment, and some are the result of a desire for community. Rachel Umaña, a senior studying politics, describes her perspective on friendship: “When you’re with everyone else who is struggling to understand the same concepts, that requires a community and friendship with others, because we can’t do it alone. This environment really necessitates strong bonds.” At Hillsdale, this sense of community is integral to life, and as the student body shifts over time, friends come and go. As seniors can attest, life doesn’t pause when we step on campus. Life continues; the people we get to know at college are meant to stick with us as life goes on.
Apollo Mettler, a freshman, recalls his expectations coming onto campus: “I thought there was going to be a lot of people who were really stuck up, and that I wasn’t going to meet a lot of outgoing people, but that turned out to be wrong. I’ve talked with people I’ve only known for a week here deeper than I’ve talked to any of my friends back home.”
Another freshman, Zach Miles, agrees. “I have found that while it is true that I don’t have many shared experiences with people, we’re all at an age and maturity level where it doesn’t necessarily matter, and we still get to know one another and forge friendships.”
Shelby Bargenquast, a senior studying Spanish, chimes in, “Friendships can be a difficult thing to cultivate and maintain and pour into, especially when you feel overwhelmed by academics and extracurriculars. But being at Hillsdale has made it so clear that you really do need true, sincere, virtuous friendships. I don’t know if anyone could really survive here without them.” And this truth manifests itself in many ways, whether it’s study groups that come together to complain about papers, or suitemates who wander into your room to ease the stress, or even the professors who care more about your life than your grade.
Friends don’t need to be limited to your graduating class. Freshman Carly Fisher sought out friendships and perspectives from students in other years when she arrived at Hillsdale. “For the first few weeks of college, I took the strategy of just coming to random people’s tables at meals. I met people from all over and met professors, upperclassmen. Nobody does a double take if you randomly come to their table.”
Rachel explains how the connection with upperclassmen is so important. “Several of my friends have graduated, and I still text them every day, asking them for their advice. And that’s another special thing about Hillsdale: that despite graduation, these are lifelong friendships that you’re making because you’re put in this intense environment, and that forms intense friendships in a beautiful way. Even though you’ve graduated, you haven’t graduated from that connection.” We’re all here to learn and to learn from one another.
As for making that first step? “Just breathe,” Shelby encourages us. “Relax and enjoy the random conversations with students on your hall; confide in your RAs or an upperclassman you’ve met when you’re struggling or are in need of advice. In our pursuit of friendships, it is important to remember that no matter how much we’d like to, we can’t force them. Just like at any other stage in life, you will encounter people that you just don’t mesh with, that you just don’t click with. And there is nothing wrong with that!”
If you ask anyone who has attended Hillsdale to describe its environment, it’s likely they will use the phrase “It’s the people.” This is because pursuing the good also involves pursuing the good of others, and that is how true friendships generate. However, it’s not just the people already here who are worth making friends with; it’s the people who have long since left and the people who have only just arrived.
Victoria Nuñez, ’22 hopes to study marketing—at least, that is the plan. She writes because she has to, but fortunately she enjoys it. In her free time, you can see her laughing, dancing, or people watching.
Published in February 2019.