If you take no other advice from upperclassmen, listening to them about their
experiences with friends may not be such a bad idea. On top of everything that you’re going to
have to struggle through in college, hopefully making friends isn’t one of them. However, if
you’re wary about the subject, it’s totally normal and may require a bit more thinking than in
High School. I won’t sugarcoat any of this for you all because learning how to surround yourself
with the right people is something you will be learning and perfecting for the rest of your life.
Did you know that you can accurately predict where you’ll be five years from now? You
can easily know where you’ll be going, what you’ll be doing, and how you’ll be doing it. If you
want to know how, the answer is simple: it’s by the company you keep. The people you associate
with will have a major impact and influence on your personal success. For example, to my
upperclassmen, I’m sure you and your friends talk about the same things or hang out at the same
places. In many cases, you may discover you’re studying the same things…or none of you are
studying at all. Although you may think you have found the perfect friend group and that your
four or five closest friends are your best buds, you have to be ready to evaluate relationships
when you are ready to make change for the better. Relationships are like elevators; they are
either bringing you up or taking you down. And at Vanderbilt, we cannot afford to be brought
down by someone who is supposed to be there for you when the University will already be your
most complicated relationship. First years, if you aren’t sure what I mean, take Gen Chem and
let me know how it goes.
You know the saying that the people you’re friends with freshman year won’t be the
same people by the time graduation rolls around? You may not find yourself in a completely
new set of friends, but I can guarantee you’ll lose folks along the way. All of those friendships
that started on Commons or in Visions won’t last through your four years, into your post-grad
life and until you kick the bucket; some of those friendships may not even make it to Commons
Ball. Every connection isn’t meant for the long haul... sometimes we find ourselves holding onto
toxic relationships that should have expired long ago.
For your long-term success, you must choose the right friends; and these are the three
best tips I can give you: associate higher, choose people you can be purpose partners with, and
lastly, give what you expect to get. It’s great to feel comfortable around those who are just like
you, but don’t be afraid to spend time with friends who can expose you to greater things, new
information and a higher level of knowledge. If you value these friendships, you will soon find
yourself advancing too. A purpose partner is one who you can share your goals and dreams with
and will hold you accountable enough to achieve them. And as for giving what you expect,
friendship is a two-way street. If you expect great friends, then you will have to be one yourself.
If you find yourself in a one-sided friendship, leave now. You will find that not everyone comes
to college knowing how to be a good friend, but growth is the key.
If you haven’t realized, there aren’t that many black people at Vanderbilt. If that was
shocking, please feel free to blame me for ruining your day. As you go through your first few
black events, you may notice something: distinct social groups. These groups can be a variety of
sizes, but they each will have their own values and attitudes. There will be groups that can
associate for larger gatherings, and groups who wouldn’t dare interact with one another. It’s
easy to feel like you too should find your own “group.” And this concept can be great, but it’s a cautionary tale.
Please, please don’t drive yourself insane trying to assimilate or become part of
these groups; as a black person, it’s already too easy to feel ostracized. And feeling ostracized
by your own people can be detrimental to one’s personal and mental health. If that doesn’t make
you feel better; remember that people see what they want you to see, and everyone is an onion.
There are layers to all people, and it may take some time for you to peel through them all, but be
prepared to not like what you see when you get to the core. Black Vandy is full of onions, and a
lot them are wonderful, but not all of them may be wonderful for you. You will find friends, you
will have a great time, but you’ll have some not-so-great times. If you find you’ve fallen out
with a friend it’s okay, not everything was made to last forever. If people aren’t adding to your
life, subtract them. It’ll only get better from there.
by Jade Clarke