Here at Stevens Institute of Technology, there are all sorts of people. As you walk around, you may not be able to tell. I can’t sometimes. Often when I walk from Howe to Davis, I’m the only girl on the path. I don’t feel unsafe or anything, but it’s just weird. My high school was public, in a small town, so “the ratio” was always 50/50. While sharing this observation with my friends, one told me, “What did you expect at a tech school?”
I don’t think my friends are diverse in culture or ethnicity (the “diversity” you see on campus are most likely grad students), or diverse in ideas and personality, as much as they are diverse in stories and experiences. People naturally become friends with people that agree with them or are similar to them, whether that similarity be shared hobbies, shared heritage, or shared major. But will restricting yourself to only those friends allow you to grow?
In the past three months, I’ve said “Hi!” to many people. Random people; I’m trying to become more familiar with girls on my floor, and also more people in my major. Some of them say hi back, some of them don’t. It’s okay. Those that have the kindness to smile at a stranger, I want to be their friend. There isn’t a better qualification, I think, than a good heart. Every time we walk past each other, or see each other in the bathroom, we say a few more words than we did previously. Progress! Building a friendship like this is intimidating at first, but reciprocation and kindness from both sides is what can make a total stranger a friend.
I think these friends are the most interesting. They have many things to say, and often have opinions that contrast mine. Every conversation can become a debate. Only because we are both kind, we can accept that we have different ideas and continue being friends. That’s why just looking for someone who will say “Hi!” back to you is enough. Even in a person’s most tired state, forcing a smile for a stranger is easy. If a person cannot even manage that much, they probably cannot offer you much as a friend either.
I do have friends that I made due to common interests (surprising, given my eclectic hobbies), but friends that I have nothing in common with excite me slightly more. I really love that this school can bring kids of all backgrounds in, even though the majority of kids are from New Jersey (with the exception of a few New Yorkers), and the majority of kids are male and engineering majors. At this school, there are kids with big scholarships yet still took out loans, as well as kids whose parents could take care of the sticker price in one go. Kids who mess with drugs I’ve never even heard of, and kids who I can tell are from very sheltering families. Kids that flaunt their high school GPA yet complain, “college is hard!”, and kids who have SAT scores so high that they should be at an Ivy, yet keep it a secret. This kind of diversity shouldn’t be considered less than any other form of diversity.
If you don’t know someone and they seem pretty cool, just say hi. At first glance, no one knows anything about anyone anyway. You can speculate, but without learning their habits or secrets from being their friend, you don’t really know much about them. Just like in any relationship, go for it. I want to grow as a person, and I’m going to do it by surrounding myself with a balance of friends. I’ll allow some to leech onto me, and I’ll leech onto some people. I’ll talk to unique people that challenge me to think differently, seek help from upperclassmen, professors, or administrators, but also familiar people that can comfort me in times of stress. Being able to meet and know all sorts of people, I feel, is what will make the college experience what it is. Happiness can’t find you if you hide.