Over the years, particularly in the middle of college application season, I’ve thought quite a bit about how my college move-in day would be like. Somehow, I never really imagined it would involve dragging suitcases, one by one, in the burning sun, by myself up to my dorm. But to be fair, I also never thought I would be living through a global pandemic. But there I was, hauling my shockingly heavy suitcases that I barely squeezed shut as a result of the two suitcase limit. Once I got to my dorm, despite Mews’s reputation for extremely thin walls, I was struck by the uneasy silence. There was no awkward first encounter with a roommate, no wandering the halls to meet the other people on my floor. Instead, I shut myself in my dorm, and longingly listened to the surprisingly numerous sounds of people already out of quarantine. My first night at college mainly consisted of me eating both the sandwiches Cornell supplied and making tik toks. So, very similar to my schedule for the past eight months.
The next morning, I woke to an email from Cayuga Health, telling me that I tested negative and was free to roam the campus. I thought I would feel relieved that not only had I tested negative for the disease responsible for a global pandemic, but also that I wouldn’t be cooped up in my room for an indefinite period of time. But really, my first thought was, what the hell do I do now? How does one make friends on campus in the middle of a pandemic? Do I knock on doors? Do I just stand in my hall until I meet someone? My move-in date was fairly early —I knew a lot of people weren’t on campus yet — so I didn’t really want to knock on random doors. Also, the prospect was a little too stressful for my brain to handle. My hall seemed pretty empty, although apparently Mews has a reputation for that in general, so that didn’t seem like it would be a good strategy either. And when I emerged from my dorm, somehow everyone was already sitting in clumps on Rawlings green, all of which seemed absolutely terrifying to approach. Basically, I suddenly realized just how much quarantine may or may not have diminished my social skills.
Eventually, I found the courage to approach people, and found friends to do things with. Also, my roommate finally arrived, so worst case scenario, I just tagged along with her plans (Shoutout to Euna! ). As a result, my first week here passed by very quickly. But at the same time, I was kind of miserable. Somehow, it seemed like everyone instantly managed to find a friend group, a feat they displayed by immediately posting to Instagram. As an only child with parents who both worked full-time, I thought I was good at being alone. I mean, I ate meals by myself all the time at home. Yet seeing everyone else’s o-week posts, I developed a crippling fear of being alone.
Since the majority of my orientation activities were not mandatory or online, my days were very unscheduled, which was exciting, but also extraordinarily terrifying. I wasn’t used to waking up and having absolutely no idea what I was going to do that day. Even in quarantine, I had some sort of schedule to my day that I tried to follow. But at Cornell, I felt like I had to be constantly busy, since to me it seemed like I was already behind in terms of making friends. Even though I was spending time with people, I felt alone, like I just wasn’t clicking with anyone. I started worrying: If I couldn’t make friends during the week when my only job was to meet new people, how was I going to get through the rest of this year? I couldn’t really meet people in my mostly-online classes. As horrible as it sounds, at multiple points, I honestly wished that we would get sent home; at least then no one else would be making new friends either.
Luckily, I don’t think that way anymore. But I have learned a couple of useful tips that I wished Wendy from two weeks ago knew. First of all, try talking to as many people as possible before you get to campus. It doesn’t hurt, and worst case scenario, you never see them again. Secondly, get used to introducing yourself to strangers. This campus is enormous. And finally, making friends take time. It’s okay to not immediately fall into a group. Just keep harassing people for lunch, or a hike or ice cream, and eventually, you’ll find your people.
Wendy Wang is a freshman in the College of Arts and Sciences. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Common Nonsense runs every other Friday this semester.