How to Make Friends at Barnard

by Laura K. Garrison

The Barnard Quad — your new home that you’ll share
with the rest of the first-years in your class

First off, welcome to Barnard! We’re glad you’re here, and we hope you take advantage of your week before classes start (believe me, enjoy it while you can). To be honest, in a new environment and out of my element, one of the biggest challenges I faced during NSOP was making friends. I went to a small, everyone-knows-your-name high school, and the majority of my friends I’d known since elementary school.  No one from my school had ever gone to Barnard before, so I was literally blazing my own trail. 

While this is an exciting time in your life (if you only had a dollar for every time someone told you that…), I know it can be incredibly scary too. The feeling of being away from home without a familiar face, in a place much larger than any school you’ve ever gone to and in a bigger city, was a stressful part of NSOP for me last year. Thanks to the careful planning put into NSOP and the fact that Barnard is such a friendly campus, you won’t have to look too hard to make friends.

During NSOP

Though it may be awkward at first, your OL group is a great place to meet your fellow Barnard classmates. At least last year, orientation groups were broken down by floor (the year before, it was by location), so you probably already have something in common with your fellow orientation group members. As your week unfolds, you will attend many of the activities accompanied by your OL group giving you ample time to get to know everyone. Though these friendships may seem superficial at first, I’m happy to report that two of my really close friends at Barnard I met in my OL group. Remember, the friendships you had in high school were cultivated over four or more years  Everything takes time.

Similar to your OL group, your Constellation is a great way to make friends with more people who live on your floor. Each Constellation will have the opportunity to go out and explore the city during NSOP.  Approach your roommates and hall-mates about going to Constellation activities together.

Though it’s easy to skip NSOP activities because they never take attendance, their whole purpose is to get you acclimated with the city, the campus, and your class. If you pick events that appeal to you, you’re more likely to find people with similar interests.

Think of your roommate as a networking opportunity. If your roommate has friends over, introduce yourself–especially during NSOP, when you’re all still getting to know each other, and a group of three or four might be a more comfortable than just a pair. Get to know the people your roommate is friends with, because you’ll probably be seeing them a lot over the course of the year. When you start to make friends of your own, ask to be introduced to their other friends. Also, whenever you get the opportunity, return the favor and introduce your friends to each other, as well as to your room mate. Chances are, you all will have a lot in common!

After NSOP

Some of the best conversations I had last year were in the bathroom. Waiting to brush your teeth, waiting for a shower, primping in front of the mirror–these are opportune moments to get to know the people on your hall. The ice breakers your RA will arrange are forced, but communal bathrooms provide an easy way to bump into and talk to the people you live with. Similarly, never be afraid to strike up a conversation in an elevator. Compliment someone on their cool shower caddy or mention where you’re from if you see someone wearing a familiar high school sweatshirt. You never know what conversations will turn into friendships.

Every Barnard first-year has to fulfill a one semester Physical Education requirement, and this can be a blessing in disguise. Though sports may not be your thing, classes in yoga, dance, and lifeguard training guarantee that this will be much less painful than your high school gym period. PE classes tend to be smaller and therefore more conducive to meeting new people, especially if you’re fulfilling your requirement this fall semester. I met one of my closest friends at Barnard in our volleyball class, but we ended up bonding over our shared love of bubble tea and black-and-white cookies.

…and the backdrop of countless unforgettable nights

You’ll also be required to take First-Year Seminar and First-Year English, both of which are small classes comprised of only Barnard first-years. In the beginning of the semester, class will be awkward, but before Halloween you’ll find that you and your peers have become a semester-long sisterhood (I know that sounds really “Barnard,” but it’s true). I went to lunch with one of my classmates from First-Year Seminar, and it turned out we had a lot more in common than just our interest in history: our love of writing, our avid watching of The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, and the fact that our moms are both fans of Bruce Springsteen.

It’s important to get involved on a campus as unique and diverse as the one Barnard and Columbia share, so find a club or activity that you can really immerse yourself in. Attend the club fairs on both sides of Broadway and look for groups that compliment what you love to do. By getting involved, you’ll be building a resume, practicing a hobby or interest, and hanging out with people who share your passions (and who might become friends).

If you’re not a social butterfly or grew up with friends you met in a sandbox, college can be a daunting place to find your niche. Most people at Barnard are friendly, helpful, and love their school so much that they want to make everyone feel welcome. Once you’ve established a social circle at Barnard, try to expand to Columbia and other schools throughout the city. You might even already have friends from high school who attend other schools in New York, or you’ll probably end up having friends at Barnard who do. Maintain or rekindle these friendships for the opportunity to branch out beyond the Barnard gates. When you’re ready, it’s a great way to get out of Morningside Heights.

Images courtesy of Barnard Event Management and Columbia University in Pictures.

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