Far from friends

How living off campus freshman year influenced my Buffalo experience

When I got a call at the end of June before my freshman year telling me my housing forms were not filled in correctly and I would not be provided dorming, I panicked.

They told me I’d have to commute – which was an issue, considering I live on Long Island.

So my dad and I spent the next month feverishly calling all the local housing developments near North and South Campuses, coming up with little until the end of July. The University Village at Sweethome gave us a call back, saying they had an opening.

I felt relieved, but little did I realize how living off campus would affect my social life.

Freshman year I lived with two girls from China who barely spoke English and a junior who I happened to know because we were from the same hometown. I lived in a building where doors were always shut and no other freshmen lived. I wasn’t able to just pop into another room or building, rather, I was stuck with the people I lived with or taking the bus to campus.

I would come home from classes and sit in my room, watching Netflix or reading by myself. I was wary of my roommates’ cooking, but would occasionally pop into the kitchen with Ilana, who I knew from home, to have dinner.

Weekends were worse. With no busing to and from campus, I was forced to walk to and from Sweethome if I wanted to see anyone on campus or go out. I relied heavily on the people I already knew from home, packing a backpack on Friday and staying in dorms in Governors or Ellicott for the weekend. I knew the bathroom codes in various dorms and became friends with the people who lived near those I stayed with. My best friend from home, Jordan, basically allowed me to live with him every weekend of my first semester.

Once Sunday came around, it was back to reality – I’d walk home, unpack my bag and return to the routine I’d developed for myself.

This situation made it hard for me to make friends on my own. Everyone I knew was either from home, or friends with someone from home. I made very few friends of my own accord, especially because most of my classes were lecture-sized. I would go out at night a lot, making fast friends on the Stampede or at parties. But none of these people were going to be my best friends. Rather, they filled the lonely void that was growing as the winter approached.

I felt like I was missing the community atmosphere everyone else seemed to be enjoying. How was I supposed to meet new people with interests similar to mine when I was trapped in an apartment far away from everyone else?

I started to join various clubs and organizations. The Spectrum was the first, where I used the class as an excuse to stay on campus longer and to meet other people who liked to write. I joined a few clubs temporarily, but didn’t find anything that stuck.

I began to go to the Chabad with my roommate, finding solace in the familiar atmosphere and befriending the people Ilana would introduce me to. We slowly grew closer and I felt less of a need to go out every weekend when I could easily spend some time with her.

Once the second semester rolled around, I was used to my situation. Enough of my friends had cars that transportation was less of an issue. I had a small group of friends I could see at any given time. I didn’t mind the apartment now that I was close with Ilana. I adjusted to the situation, and when it came time for people to make plans for sophomore year, I had a whole group of girls to live with who would move to Sweethome.

Everyone told me freshman year would be the hardest. That the friends I made may not stick, or that I would have more time to go out, or that any experience I had wouldn’t affect the rest of my college experience.

Instead, it taught me the value of having a few close friends rather than a large group. I developed close bonds with a few people instead of creating the group atmosphere, like I had in high school.

I now have this group. I have a set of guy and girlfriends that I hang out with on the weekend and live with. I have friends at The Spectrum and the Chabad. I keep in close touch with a couple friends from home.

Most importantly, I’ve maintained the relationships I formed my first year. Ilana is graduating this year, and we already talk about how I’m going to visit her when she’s in graduate school. Though Jordan transferred home, I still speak to him regularly and see him when I’m home. They’re the people I lean on when I need someone to talk to, because I know no matter where I am, they’ll always be there for me.

Tori Roseman is the senior arts editor and can be reached at tori.roseman@ubspectrum.com