For the first time after two years of party-going at UCLA, I went to a party and actually made friends with people I didn’t know.
The layout was the usual: beer pong, jungle juice, a Spotify playlist on someone’s phone with tiny speakers blaring. There was the never-ending din of conversations I don’t care about, complaints about classes I’ll never take and organizations I’ll probably never join. As you can tell, large apartment parties have never held any magic for me. Mostly, I felt obligated to pay a visit to see my friend, one of the hosts, and then leave.
I’m not sure if it was my mood, or the people who happened to be there, but several hours and tequila pulls later, I ended up in a very real conversation as a group of us attended to a girl vomiting over the side of the balcony. It was one of those glorious cinematic moments where you break through all the drunken awkwardness to really, truly talk.
People may go on and on about how UCLA has a place for everyone, but given the scale of campus and the hundreds of organizations, it can feel pretty hard trying to find your “people.” Your “people”: the friends with whom doing nothing feels like something. Hours fly by. Papers go unwritten and amino acids go unmemorized. And when you’re finally alone in your room, you know it was all worth it.
Some are lucky, hitting it off with their orientation or first-year dorm friends, the rock of their social lives solidifying early on. Others take longer, and some of us will leave UCLA without ever truly having a group of friends to call their “people,” even as we claim membership to fraternities, sororities, dance teams, service organizations and so on.
I’m not ashamed to say it hasn’t happened for me yet, although in this age of social media, there’s pressure to make everyone think you’re having the time of your life at UCLA. We live curated lives, posting photos and sharing only the news we want people to know about. People post about their besties and their squads, even if the scenario that these relationships are superficial and primarily based on affiliation is well within the realm of possibilities. The rest of the world may not be immune, but UCLA, and many other colleges, are diseased in that regard: Aren’t your years in college supposed to be the best years of your life?
Fake it until you make it, I suppose.
As a third-year student, I don’t expect a lot from folks in terms of making real platonic connections. The first-year social Rumspringa has petered out fully, and we identify ourselves by our majors and our organizations. We’re all busy people: studying, working, going to the gym, doing research, spending time with the friends we’ve already made, dating and engaged in extracurricular commitments and internships. I’ve made friends, though they’re spread out, involved in everything from Model United Nations to a cappella groups.
That night at the party, a group of strangers talked about break-ups and cats, holding back the hair of a girl we’d just met. Friend requests followed, and the next morning, I found myself joking around on Facebook Messenger with these people whom I am never going to encounter in my pre-med or major classes.
Whether these people end up being my “people” or just friends I’ll see every now and then, it’s nice to know that in a world of perpetually busy UCLA students who seem to have it all figured out, some of us are still open to new friendships, new connections, no longer closed for business on the friendship front, even as the more seasoned among us inch past second year and into our home stretch of college.
The at-times superficial social networks formed by extracurricular activities, social organizations and major aren’t the only thing you can find at UCLA. Sometimes, friendship happens when you’re at a party rubbing a random girl’s back, or maybe it happens when you share a table at Kerckhoff.
Whoever you are, I hope you know that it’s never too late to find real friendship. It’s week one of fall quarter, before our feet are held to the fire as midterms begin and our free time disappears into thin air, and anything seems possible.