Freshmen at colleges across the country are getting used to their new lives away from home, and some have a harder time adjusting than others.
For Emery Bergmann ’21 — the Cornell freshman whose short film on transitioning into college has gone viral — getting acclimated and finding new friends on campus proved more difficult than she had anticipated.
Bergmann spent her first week on campus observing hordes of freshmen migrating to Collegetown parties, dining halls or relaxing in the dormitories in large groups. She told The Sun she felt frustrated, lonely and isolated from the large amoebas of students.
“I knew that there were other people in my position,” she said in an interview, “but I just felt like I wasn’t seeing it. There’s no way I’m the only person on this campus that’s not making friends, but from what I saw, it felt like it was only me.”
A fine arts major from Montclair, New Jersey, Bergmann made the video for a digital media class that had tasked her and other students with making a movie that depicted a transformation.
Her video was later featured on the parenting section of the TODAY Show website, and she told the show that she focused the video on something she had “strong feelings about” so that she would enjoy the process of producing it.
“You can be surrounded by people, but still feel alone,” Bergmann said in her film, which highlighted her anxiety about being separated from old friends during college, as well as her struggle to find friends at Cornell.
Social media only intensified her loneliness at Cornell by constantly reminding her of her friends and family back home, she said. She saw people she knew having fun with new peers on Facebook, Snapchat and Instagram, while she felt lonely. The posts added pressure on her to join the social circles that it appeared her friends had no problem finding.
The way college is often portrayed as the “best four years of your life,” Bergmann said, puts pressure on students to adjust quickly and find friends, a process that is “not something immediate, as I expected it to be.”
Joining student organizations did not help, Bergmann said in the film, since having similar interests as other students does not always translate to forming social bonds.
Several months into her first semester at Cornell, Bergmann’s mother wrote her a letter detailing her own struggle to adjust to college life, which led Bergmann to realize that she should not feel so strongly compelled to immediately make friends.
“After receiving the letter from my mom, I had my mini-epiphany and realized how unfair I was being to myself and others, expecting everything to work out perfectly in the first two months,” Bergmann told TODAY Parents.
Bergmann, in her interview with The Sun, had advice for students who feel disheartened about their first two or three months at school.
“People are afraid to confront the fact that it’s not easy to make friends,” she said. “It’s not going to come as quickly as everyone thinks it’s going to.”
Her video, on YouTube, has been viewed more than 70,000 times.