When I went off to college two summers ago, I moved 300 miles away from my friends and family. All my friends from high school went to different schools than me, so I was on my own to branch out and make new friends at my new home. Being on my own in a new place (and at a very big school) made me really nervous, and in turn, it was hard for me to make friends. I’m not the kind of person that will go up and talk to anyone; it takes a little bit of time for me to warm up to people.
Needless to say, making friends in college was difficult for me. To add to it, my roommate wasn’t very nice. However, I chose to spend time with her and her friends because it was easy. They were always around, so why not? I didn’t try to branch out and hang out with other people. Honestly, I was so nervous that I convinced myself I didn’t know how.
By the time second semester rolled around after winter break, I was nervous to return to my roommate after a month of being home. I realized that living in a 12x12 foot room with someone that isn’t nice is no way to spend your freshman year of college, so I decided to move. I found a girl in the building that I already lived in that wanted to switch places with me. I would move to her room and she would move to mine.
On the day that I moved into my new room, I heard a knock on my door. I answered it and to my surprise, two girls and two boys were standing at the door. One of the girls introduced herself, the other girl, and the two boys. She said that they lived down the hall. “We’re all really good friends and would love to hang out with you sometime,” she said.
The four of them didn’t even know me, but they went out of their way to make me feel welcome in my new home. I had only been there for a few hours and knew that I was going to love it. Over the next few weeks, I was friendly with them but never went out of my way to go to their rooms at the end of the hall. Then one night when I left my door open, the girl that had introduced them all came into my room and simply said, “I think you’re cool. I want to be friends with you.” In that moment, I felt like someone truly wanted me around and let me tell you, that’s an incredible feeling.
Fast forward a year and two months later and those four people that showed up at my door are now my best friends. We’ve added a few members to our friend group since then, but that day they decided to include me changed everything. Being included makes you feel like you’re on top of the world. It makes you feel like someone appreciates who you truly are. They want to spend time with you, and nobody wants to spend time with somebody they don’t appreciate.
Being an includer is courageous. You have no idea what other people are going through. When my friends knocked on my door that day, they had no idea that I was having a hard time making friends in college or that I was nervous about moving to a new floor. Instead, they welcomed me, despite not knowing anything about who I was. They had the courage to go against the pack. Nobody else knocked on my door, but they did.
That day my friends decided to be inclusive impacted me more than they even know. They made me feel welcome in a place that I hadn't exactly felt welcome before. It made me realize that I am worthy of having friends that are nice and care about me. I’d like to challenge you all to practice courage and become an includer. You never know what kind of impact you might make. And hey, you could even make some great friends.