When you begin college, you might feel overwhelmed by all those new faces on campus. As you pass people on the way to class and meet everybody on your floor, you may wonder: Will I find any new friends here?
The answer: "No doubt about it." But remember this: Your new best friend may be someone you'd least expect.
First impressions aren't always correct. So don't limit your possibilities. And do follow the examples of these college students who have chosen to develop good, lasting friendships they never would have expected.
Set Aside Stereotypes
Watson "Trey" Jones, 2006 graduate
Danny Jensen, 2005 graduate
Trinity International University, Deerfield, Illinois
Danny's long hair, scraggly goatee and blue eyes fit right in with just about everyone else at Trinity International University. At least that's how it seemed to Watson "Trey" Jones III. "Everyone played guitar and walked around in flip flops," jokes Trey, who showed up to freshman orientation wearing a do-rag and speaking in the dialect of Chicago's South Side.
When Danny Jensen, an outgoing sophomore from Kenosha, Wisconsin, approached Trey at a freshman orientation social gathering, the two hit it off right away.
"My initial reaction was that he was really intelligent, social, very accepting, eager to get to know me as well as my culture," says Danny.
"If you're a Christian, you're called to step out of your comfort zone."
Trey had reluctantly showed up on campus that fall promising his mother that he'd give Trinity a chance for one year. He just wasn't convinced he'd be able to fit in at a predominately white campus.
Though he didn't realize it at the time, Trey now says he was definitely in culture shock. "In chapel, they did worship completely different from the way I'd learned to worship," he said. "Our music is a lot livelier with rhythm, dancing and expression of emotions."
He also knew that many of the students had a lot more money than he had, and many of them had scary stereotypes of African-Americans from urban settings.
"In my mind, I thought all white people did not like black people," says Trey. "It made me afraid."
But then along came Danny Jensen.
"Danny stepped into my life in the midst of my views," said Trey. "He stepped out of his comfort zone. He accepted me like a brother. It tore down all types of thoughts I had."
One time, Trey wanted to ask a girl to homecoming, but he needed a suit from home. Danny and a bunch of friends drove Trey to his house to get his suit. "It's the South Side of Chicago; my neighborhood is wild, crazy," said Trey. "People wouldn't say they were nervous, but no one wanted to get out of the car."
Except for Danny. He had jumped out of the car and was up on the porch before Trey was.
"My mother was pretty impressed by him," says Trey.
Trey's relationship with his mother and his friends, in turn, impressed Danny. "He's taught me a lot about making my friends my family, just as he does," said Danny. "I feel like he's a part of my family and I'm a part of his family as well."
In the spring of 2005, Danny and Trey had an unexpected opportunity to speak up about racial issues on campus. Three African-American students received threatening letters, and administrators evacuated minority students from campus for their safety. The incident received national attention. Even though it turned out to be a hoax, Danny and Trey were involved in a panel discussion on racial issues, which encouraged students to move beyond the hurt created by the hoax.
"We wanted to communicate to other students that we desire unity between our races," says Danny.
Danny and Trey say that to have a friendship like theirs, students have to be willing to face their fears and set aside their stereotypes. Trey offers this advice to incoming freshmen: "If you're a Christian, you're called to step out of your comfort zone and get to know people who are not like you. There may be differences of opinion, values, understandings, but that does not mean that person needs to be excluded. Get to know him and try your best to understand him."
Jolynn Boice, junior
Miranda Lilley, 2006 graduate
Corban College, Salem, Oregon
As her freshman year ended, Jolynn Boice didn't have a roommate for the following year. Then she received a phone call from Miranda Lilley, a sophomore acquaintance she'd met in passing several months earlier. Miranda was calling because she worked in the career and academic services office and needed some information from Jolynn.
As the two talked, they discovered that neither of them had a roommate for the next fall.
A few weeks later, Miranda e-mailed Jolynn. She said she'd rather room with someone she sort of knew than a complete stranger. With that less-than-enthusiastic e-mail, the two decided to room together.
As the summer wore on, Jolynn had her doubts about moving in with Miranda. One concern: She had a hard time the previous year connecting with other girls, and she was afraid things wouldn't be any different with Miranda. On top of that, the two girls had vastly different life experiences.
Miranda, who had been engaged, thought she would be living off campus with her husband, but ended up breaking off the engagement. In many ways, Jolynn felt Miranda "knew how to be an adult"; she'd experienced things Jolynn had never thought much about.
"One of my fears was that she'd be cooler than I am," says Jolynn, "and she'd know more and try to be an authority figure over me instead of an equalthat it would be her room that I was just living in."
Then there was an added complicationand worry: Miranda had been asked to be an RA. All of a sudden, Jolynn's roommate was an authority: She was in charge of the entire floor. It left Jolynn feeling more insecure and even less sure about her rooming situation. Even so, she decided not to let that keep her from getting to know Miranda. As soon as they moved in together, Jolynn started initiating conversations.
"I really tried to talk to her, sharing stuff in my life and chatting with her, and not being scared to start up a conversation," said Jolynn.
Before long they were staying up hours talking as if they were seventh graders at a slumber party. "Those were the times we grew together the most," said Miranda. "She just let me process things out loud without being judgmental. She listened without trying to solve things."
Conversations soon became both deep and personal.
"It wasn't just the surface," said Jolynn. "It was 'I know what's going on in your lifethe things that have gone wrong and the things that have gone right.'"
Overall, friendships in college are a lot different than high school, says Miranda. In high school, she had a group of friends she hung out with after youth group. But since then, she's had to become more intentional about relationships. Doing so, says Miranda, has helped her build strong friendships with Jolynn and other girls on her floor.
For those looking forward to life on campus, Miranda advises: "Be friendly to lots of people. You never know who you're going to connect with."
Open Your Eyes to Friendship
Stacie North, junior
Christina Colyer, 2006 graduate
Evangel University, Springfield, Missouri
It was the first week of school. Freshman Stacie Norris was half-asleep in her dorm-room bed 1,500 miles away from home, but mention of her home state of Oregon woke her up right away.
Her roommate was telling her about meeting another girl in her hall who came from Oregon. Fellow Oregonian Christina, who was a junior at the time, came over right away to meet Stacie and remembers that Stacie gave her a big hug as soon as she came in the room.
As they talked, they discovered that they grew up 25 minutes apart. Christina was from Salem; Stacie was from Albany.
"God has friendships out there for you. You've just got to keep your eyes open for them."
"We bonded from the moment we met," says Christina.
"Back at home, we went to two churches that were involved with each other a lot and we'd never met, even though we were probably at the same events, like a youth convention or the fine arts festival," says Stacie.
For Stacie, she wouldn't have imagined being friends with Christina in high school. Christina was a part of the athletic crowd, and Stacie wasn't. Christina says she can be sarcastic, and doesn't take garbage from anyone. Stacie is more sensitive and very high energy.
"She'd rather go to a concert while I would rather go to a football game," said Christina. "We help balance each other out. I think that if we were too much alike we would get tired of one another."
"If we had known each other back home, we might not have liked each other," says Stacie. "But, for some reason, it just seems that our personalities really meshed here."
The friendship also helped Stacie when she was homesick. "I was really shy," she says. "I was scared. I didn't know what to think about all these people here. Christina helped me open up. "
The girls became like family to each other. Each Sunday they would have lunch together with a university staff member. And since they lived too far away to travel home, they spent many of their short breaks together. One Spring Break, the girls took a road trip to Denver to visit Christina's uncle.
Then something happened this past summer that brought the two even closer together. Christina's father lay dying from a 16-month battle with cancer. Stacie was preparing to return to school when she heard that Christina's dad was near death. She decided to stay home a little longer so that she could visit Christina's family and comfort her friend.
"Stacie's uplifting and positive," says Christina. "She's not one to get you down. If you're down she'll cheer you up. I've never had a friend like that."
Their advice to incoming freshmen: Be open to friendships even if your first impressions aren't good. At first, Stacie's high-energy personality was a bit too much for Christina. But after spending more time with her, Christina learned to look past first impressions and her perspective changed.
"God has those friendships out there for you," says Christina. "You've just got to keep your eyes open for them."
Rebecca Mayer, a 2004 graduate of Northwestern College in St. Paul, Minnesota, works as a special section editor for a weekly newspaper in the Portland, Oregon, area. She loves to travel and recently spent two months in Uganda.