When it came to my first year in Chapel Hill, I was one of the lucky ones.
As a natural introvert, it would have been difficult for me to make close friends. None of my close friends were going to UNC and I was a little apprehensive about putting myself out there.
But I lucked out when, a few months before orientation, an old buddy from middle school reached out to me: Did I want to room with him at UNC? I said yes, and I often think about how different my college experience would be if I had turned him down.
That's because my first-year suite at Ehringhaus consisted of seven of the coolest people I'd ever met, along with myself. I lived with my friend from middle school, four of his high school friends, a friend of one of his friends and, weirdly, an acquaintance with whom I went to high school.
Despite being very different people in a lot of ways – different ethnicities, interests and ways of seeing the world – the eight of us became fast friends, and to this day several of them are still the people I'm closest with at UNC.
More important than our differences were what we had in common, and it seemed like I shared different interests with the various members of the suite. I was able to talk about sports with some of my suitemates, share new music with others and debate the nature of objective truth with a few, all while hanging out on the couch in my room.
So far, this story might seem completely useless to you. You might be thinking, 'Oh, so all I've got to do to make friends is share a dorm with a diverse and interesting group of people that I love to hang out with? Why didn't you say so?'
The point, though, is this: Find your people – people that feed the distinct parts of your personality. Focus on similarities, not differences. Don't think about all the reasons why you shouldn't be friends with a given person, or the ways that that person is undeniably dissimilar from you. And don't strive to hang out with exact replicas of yourself. It's OK to have a group of friends to play Xbox with and a group of friends to watch the big game with.
The great thing about UNC is that everyone here is intelligent, curious and multifaceted, with a variety of passions and world-views for you to come into contact with. So branch out.
Another piece of advice, something my dad likes to tell me: you can never have too many people in this world that care about you. Don't be afraid to be vulnerable and put yourself out there! Even if you're met with the occasional rejection, or derisive look or you just don't quite click with someone, you'll do a lot more good than harm. This is advice that I could use as much as anyone, but it's important to say nonetheless. While you're at UNC is the time to do it – to meet new people, to do new things, to give it the literal college try.
Maybe your best friends won't end up being in your first-year suite. But if you keep an open mind and put yourself out there, you'll meet people that you might connect with for very different and surprising reasons.
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