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Keep your O-week friends

<p>First-year advisory counselors engaged in cultural competency conversations with their small groups during this year's new student orientation.</p>

First-year advisory counselors engaged in cultural competency conversations with their small groups during this year's new student orientation.

A year ago, almost to the date, one of my O-week friends told me that I needed to worry less and have more spontaneous fun. At the time I laughed him off and gave some half-hearted excuse as to why I had to plan every second of my life. I was new to college, I had way too much on my plate, and the only way I knew I would develop friendships was if I managed to fit them into the 30-minute blocks I had between classes and extracurriculars. 

Well, AJ, it turns out you were right. 

I thought I had it all as I entered sophomore year. I’d finally figured out what I wanted to study, I was happy (enough) with my GPA, and I knew I would be traveling a lot this semester. But, as early as the second week of school I knew something was missing. It wasn’t until I heard some friends of mine advise a first-year to “keep [his] O-week friends” that I realized what made me happiest on campus. 

Duke provides me with plenty of opportunities to enjoy myself. From being a dancer on a real team for the first time or going to local concerts and art crawls, college really has given me the opportunity to let loose and discover myself. Despite each and every one of these opportunities, nothing brings me more joy than going over to my O-week friend’s apartment in the middle of the night and turning up to the Six Flag theme song. Whether we're talking about the proper pronunciation of “milk” (mel-kuh) or how disappointing it is that society still doesn’t know how to handle Kavanaughs on or off campus, being around my day ones always reminds me that there is more to Duke than structured social calendars and overbearing classes.

I, like most people, formed my O-week friendships at my most vulnerable state. I had just moved to North Carolina, I only knew people in my pre-orientation program, and I’d never spent more than the two-day long Blue Devil Days on campus. I was a deer in headlights from the moment O-week started. And without guidance from someone who knew the ropes, I leaned on my O-week friends to talk me through an argument with my friend from back home, my first frat-party, my first bout of homesickness, and through the realization that Duke is now where I call home. 

Admittedly, everyone doesn’t have O-week friends as right for them as I do. Some of those friendships were formed out of haste just to have someone to go to a frat party with or out of proximity as two people lived doors down from each other and brushed their teeth at the same time every morning. Most of these friendships won’t last. It even seems like second-semester first-years actively move beyond O-week friendships. Year after year, first-years go through some form of the rush process to try to find a group of people they feel more compatible with. Whether you join an SLG, go Greek, or remain independent, friend groups are likely to change from the first semester to the second. Let me be the first to say there nothing wrong with finding a group of people you gel with. I think there’s something comforting about finishing a long day’s work and retreating into a group of people that make you feel comfortable. Whether you join an SLG, fraternity, sorority, LLC, sport club, or academic society, it’s important to have a group of people who inspire you to live your best life. In the midst of that, however, stay close to the individuals who knew you from the start.

If your O-week friendships have faded away because they were built out of fear of loneliness, don’t go chasing waterfalls. But, if your O-week squad uplifts each other, challenges each other to be better versions of yourselves, and above all, makes you laugh until you can’t breathe, then fight to make those friendships last. So, in the rush of barn parties, midterms, and recruitment season, if you’ve neglected the people who know the most vulnerable you the best, here is your sign to reach out to them. If you’re like me and can drop all your plans when your homies say it's time to roll, invite them to your dorm room tonight. If you must schedule something, plan a cute Nasher brunch, get dressed up, and remind each other of the times you had when you had no one else. 

Ryan Williams is a Trinity sophomore. His column usually runs on alternate Tuesdays.


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