What constitutes strong friendships? A partner in crime? A person that accompanies you to the movies? A person you share highs and lows with?
Friendships include two or more people enjoying time with one another while appreciating the individual they have chosen to cross paths with. The relevance of my prior sentence stems from the word “chosen.” We choose our friends—or at least should.
The key to happiness might not be through others, but acquiring a solid, supportive friend group can make life so much more pleasurable, and stress so much more manageable. Social connections can feel magical when done right. We all crave that support system. We want to share laughs and rant in between classes. But sometimes it’s hard to find people we click with, and sometimes, we find ourselves desperately looking at the clock, wondering when the social function will finally come to an end.
Sisterhood and female friends extend beyond just having someone to share laughs with. Sisterhood encompasses the good and the bad. It is warm, secure, and welcoming. It makes you feel like no matter what hardship comes across your path, or what award you win, there will be people holding your hand and cheering you on. It is not every day you come across someone who is willing and capable to make you feel like you are sitting by a fireplace with hot cocoa in your hand. As soon as you come across a companion that gives you such a feeling, it is important to maintain it. Friendship is delicate and requires great love and care. It is soft and must be nurtured through time and trust.
I’m in my senior year at university and I have to say, I absolutely hated freshman year. Going from high school to such a huge campus felt emotionally jarring. I missed the safety of my public school days, and I wandered the halls hoping to feel closer to the people that I could call my friends. It seemed to me that everyone wanted the cliché college experience of partying, drinking, and smoking. While I’m cool with how people act in their personal lives, I knew I didn’t want that around me. And so I sat with my so-called friends in freshman year and hoped to find people that aligned with my values and goals.
Today, I have a mix of friends that I do different activities with. I have some non-Muslim friends that have learned to separate their party lives from mine. And I have some Muslim friends I can head to the sisters’ musallah (prayer space) with. Being friends with different groups of people has opened my heart and my mind. Sometimes, friendship is my greatest motivator to keep me going when times become rough. And so, here are a few ideas to keep in mind while finding your people and building sisterhood friendships in college.
1. True friends would never make you go against your religion or boundaries
There are friends who truly do not care about your boundaries or values. They will pull you into situations that you never expected to find yourself in – and it sucks. You find yourself unable to support them the way you want to while feeling guilty and upset at the same time. The right friends, whether they practice the same faith as you or not, will respect your boundaries.
2. It’s okay to have slightly different personalities for different friends
I’m not saying to be fake or change who you are for people, but we are complex beings. We have so many interests and traits that others don’t have. So you might find a friend that likes soccer as much as you do but hates movies. It’s alright to show more of your soccer side to them and more of your film-fanatic side to your other friend.
3. Your real friends stick by your side in the happy and sad times
This feels a little obvious but it’s important to mention. There are some people who expect you to listen to their achievements or struggle, but will never do the same for you. Then there are people who make you feel bad for only mentioning what’s hard in your life, which prompts you to push that side of yourself down. It’s important to find people that encourage every part of you. The real ones are there for the highs and lows.
4. Don’t limit yourself to only Muslim friends
Some of the people who have brought me closest to Allah (SWT) are not Muslim. They are the people who jokingly say they would hit a glass of wine out of my hand if they ever saw me with one (not that I would drink, but hypothetically speaking…) Having Muslim friends is awesome because it helps you feel connected through shared upbringings and values, but the most important quality of friendship is respect. Don’t limit who you allow in your circle based on labels.
5. Do not cut off friends at the first sign of conflict
Friendships, and all meaningful relationships, require patience and respect. Such relationships may feel complex and difficult to overcome, but there is a greater sense of commitment and love involved when two people are able to communicate their feelings and concerns without demonizing the other. In case you have a conflict with a friend, it is so important to communicate calmly. And, it is perfectly normal to be upset with someone.
My friends and I mention to each other that we have something we’d like to discuss in person, and then we write our thoughts in our notes app to come together. Complexity in friendship does not mean weakness, but rather it gives room to grow stronger together. In more ways than one, after a conflict, I feel safer with my friends. It is a sign that they want to strengthen our friendship, not run away from it.
6. Everyone in college wants to be friends, So make conversation!
I feel like most people are just too shy to make the first move, but once you start a conversation in that class or suggest a study group chat, people jump at the opportunity to at least make surface-level friendships where you help each other out. College isn’t easy. Everyone wants someone to sit beside them while the professor goes off-topic.
7. Seek friendship with those that have the same emotional intelligence as you
It’s an amazing feeling to help a friend during a tough time. Sitting attentively, caring for their needs, and making sure they are okay is important. But, it is absolutely draining to constantly give without receiving. The truth is, emotional intelligence is a quality many do not have. So, while I’m not saying to give up on your friends who need you, I am saying it’s important to have friends who monitor your wants and needs and present you with the same love and support you present to them. Otherwise, you’ll burn out and find yourself unable to help anyone.
It is important to note that if you don’t feel secure in your friendships now, there are thousands of people on your campus you can meet. And surely, there must be someone who matches you in more ways than one.
You are a testament to the values and personalities you want. By logic, that means there must be someone else on campus who shares the same ideologies as you. Join a variety of clubs that are fun, academic, and religious. Expand your circle and you will find a multitude of individuals who will laugh at your jokes and hug you when at your lowest!