At the end of my freshman year at Tufts, I wrote a recap entitled year 1. Although we’re only halfway through year 2, the time feels right for a halfway recap.
I ended last year with a feeling that I had made less friends than I had expected.
In semester 3, quite little progress has been made on that. Possible backwards progress has been made. But, I find myself not caring that much either.
The biggest change this year has been that my girlfriend since high school, Trisha, transferred to Tufts.
Where we used to be a 45 minute train ride apart (from Tufts to Boston University), now it’s a 10 minute walk up the hill. Walking uphill in the cold is a pain, but a marked improvement nonetheless.
I have made approximately one new friend this year, and that has been through Trisha. I have lost touch with a few friends from last year, through a sort of natural growing apart.
Tallied up, that puts the change in friends at a slight negative.
Attempts at progress
I did come into the year with plans of how to correct that deficit in friend-making that I felt last year. Mostly, the plan was to join more clubs and activities on campus — the most generic college advice possible in this situation, but unfortunately it seems right.
I signed up for a lot of clubs at the club fair, but of course the list of clubs I actually consistently attended slimmed down quickly. Two were left: Chinese Students Association (CSA) and JumboCode.
I know people who seem to have built a large part of their friend groups through CSA, so I thought perhaps it was worth joining.
However, I never felt fully comfortable there — probably because of my limited effort at becoming part of the group. The meetings were Tuesday nights, and for the first part of the semester I was commuting into Boston to work at Markit on Tuesday afternoons. By the evening I had little motivation to go to the meetings, and my attendance dropped off.
JumboCode is a club at Tufts that splits into teams which spend the entire school year (October → April) building an app for a non-profit. On a whim, I applied to be a Tech Lead for a team, and was accepted! I work with a Project Manager to lead a team of 10 developers.
I’m now somewhat unconvinced of JumboCode as vehicle for making friends (there’s limited time that you meet with your team, and almost all of it is spent doing work). I can also confidently say that being a Tech Lead has not helped; making friends with people who’ve been placed “under” me, despite it being completely arbitrary that I’m in this position, feels difficult.
Despite this being a pretty depressing recap so far, I feel pretty great. I think there’s a few reasons to attribute to this, the first being that Trisha now attends Tufts.
Last year, a lot of the loneliness came while I was alone: having a meal alone, or just doing work by myself at night.
Now, seeing Trisha fills the gaps where I would otherwise be by myself. It might still just be doing homework, but it feels very different to have someone else in the room.
I would say that the feeling of loneliness I often had last year has not resurfaced at all this semester.
This semester I also dove headfirst into work. I continued to freelance for Buttondown, was building out an app for a University of Michigan study (Kiwi), and worked part-time at Markit.
Unfortunately that was a bit too much stress, and I had to leave my work at Markit two months into the semester.
But still, having work to fill the time that I wasn’t doing homework or doing other things contributed to less time to feel aimless and lonely.
Lastly, while last year I lived with a random roommate (which actually went quite well), this year I was able to choose who I’m living with. I’m living in a small room with two friends, and it’s great despite the slightly cramped quarters.
The building is beautifully centrally located such that us and friends tend to spend a lot of downtime in the room. Having that sort of central spot where I can come back to and be in the silent presence of people has kept the feelings of loneliness at bay.
The facts are dubious, but the feelings are positive.
On paper, there’s lots of room for improvement in making friends and feeling more at home at Tufts. I should and will continue to try to improve that.
But altogether, I find myself feeling that if not much were to change, I’d be happy with that as well.