The Friends You Make at Uni Don’t Have to Be For life

The truth about Friendships of Convenience

Photo by Jonathan Daniels on Unsplash

Hollywood lies to us all the time. Most of the time, we all accept this. We know that superheroes aren't real and that an alien invasion is fairly unlikely. As a group, we’re generally pretty good at sorting fact from fiction when it comes to entertainment.

There is, however, one lie that authors, screenwriters, and film directors have been telling us for years which we seem to have fallen for — hook, line, and sinker.

How many times has a protagonist in your chosen form of entertainment talked about their ‘friends from college’? How often have you seen stories that revolve around people who met as children or young adults and now posses the most beautiful and solid of friendships?

Ringing any bells?

Some of you may be able to relate to this kind of thing. Friendships like that are not uncommon and they are often pretty amazing. I have a few friends from school and uni and though I am closer to some than others, there is a shared history there that is quite powerful.

However, for every one friend I have from those days, I have at least 10 that drifted away. Contrary to what a lot of parents will tell you when you go to uni, I didn't really make many lasting friendships there. The same goes for school, actually. Just because these are times of self-discovery doesn't mean that they are the only times you can discover other people too.

I worry that this expectation puts too much pressure on students to go out there and find their platonic, and possibly romantic, soulmates while also having to think about living alone, studying, preparing for the future, and a hundred other important, pressing matters.

I said in an article of mine a while back that, when travelling, one of the things you have to come to terms with is that most of the wonderful people you meet and have experiences with will disappear from your life just as quickly as they entered it. That is the nature of making friends when life is in flux. Life changes, people change, and things just move on in different directions.

The same applies to uni. The years spent studying, if that is something you opt to do, are likely going to be some of the most formative years of your life. Yes, you will meet people and for a while, perhaps even for years, they might well be your closest friends. But when its all over, and people go off to get jobs and families and grow-up lives, that will change.

And that’s ok.

The idea that lifelong friendships are predominantly made in the crucible of academia is nothing short of insane. For a start, there are plenty of people who never go to uni and still manage to have fulfilling lives filled with loving friendships. I worry that the pressure it puts on students may force people to socialise in ways that they would rather not, all in the name of meeting new people and finding those lifelong friends.

I know that I, on a number of occasions in my life, have held on to friends that I knew were not good for me because of the idea that there was some kind of time limit on finding that group of people who will always be there in your life. I might not have been happy about it, but at least I wouldn't have been alone.

Well, bollocks to that.

The reason people think that most long-lasting friendships come from school or university is that, aside from work later in life, these are the places where you will be forced to spend a significant amount of time with the same group of people. As a result, and because humans are inherently social, friendships are almost invariably going to spring up in a situation like that.

The thing is, though, that friendships of convenience are not necessarily the precursor to that true companionship that everyone hopes for. These are friendships that are formed by educational scheduling, not definite forethought. That’s why so many people drift apart after leaving school or graduating uni. There isn't a schedule anymore, and nobody is invested enough to make one.

Yes, you can make friends for life at uni. Of course, you can. But I’ll make you a wager. I bet that they won't be ‘from uni’, but from a hobby that you engaged in at the same time.

I do have friends from my days at school and from university. I love them to pieces and I am fairly confident that most of them will be sticking around in my life for the long-haul. But guess what? Though I might have studied with most of these people, almost all of the friendships that became long-term were forged in activities outside of the classroom. From scouts to theatre, our relationships grew out of mutual interest in something other than academia.

Therefore, if the strongest friendships are usually formed through activities other than studying, then why must our time in classrooms, big or small, be the predetermined time to find life-long friendships?

Hobbies can still be enjoyed once academia is behind us. We can still make art and play sports and do all the things that we liked to do while we were studying, except we don't have to study. The people are still there, just without books in front of them.

There is no reason to expect that your strongest and longest-lasting friendships will be made at university. Yes, such institutions do present plenty of opportunities to get to know new people and to have some fun that might otherwise be difficult once in the world of work. But it's important to realise the difference between friendships of convenience and friendships of affection. They’re both completely valid, but one is far more likely to drift away when the convenience comes to an end.

Perhaps you do have lifelong friends from uni. That's fantastic and I couldn't be happier for you. I'm not saying that it can't happen or that it shouldn't. All I am saying is that we shouldn’t put pressure on students to build their entire friendship circle in the years while they are studying.

Life is long and it's full of other people. There is no reason why you shouldn't find the best friends you will ever have in your 30s, 40s, 50s, or beyond. Friends can come from any corner of our lives, at any time. We should strive to be open to that fact, lest we let true companionship go unnoticed because we were focusing so intently on convenience.

University is a great time to meet new friends, but it's not the only time. Life doesn't stop when you graduate. We don't become hermits, each confined to our own solitary cave with a diploma on the wall. We move through life and meet new people almost on a daily basis until the day we die. Any one of them could be a future friend, best friend, or even more.

So, when you graduate, regardless of how many friends you did or did not make in your time as a student, go forth into the world with an open mind and an open heart.

If you stay in touch with the friends of your youth, that's fantastic. If you don't, that's ok too.

There are always more people to meet.

(He/Him) Writer, editor and all-round curious so and so. Writing about politics, being queer, and lots besides! Get in touch at sean.writing27@gmail.com

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