Getting by with a little help from friends

How students balance new and existing friendships

Annie Symons, Staff Reporter

Cara Hiroyasu (left) and Bree Hastin (right) sitting together enjoying a sunrise in hammocks by the canal.
(Sydney Lorton)

Friends make you happy when skies are gray, and in Seattle, that can be pretty often.

During the pandemic, strengthening friendships with trustworthy people became even more important. Everyone needs support in one way or another, and many lean on their longtime best buddies for community and comfort.

When the pandemic hit, junior nursing major Sydnie Gould found friendships in a familiar place: she focused on strengthening the ones under her own roof.

“I still kept up with some friends over social media, but I’ve always been friends with my family members and it never really felt like my relationships suffered,” Gould said. “I had all that I needed.”

Gould emphasized her gratitude for safe outdoor gatherings, especially ones that occur in the bright Seattle sunshine because it tends to bring everybody out.

“I’ve been outside way more this year than I had been in the past, and that’s largely due to it being the safest option for spending time with people that I don’t already live with,” Gould said.

This summer, Gould is embarking upon a new adventure and choosing to stay in Washington rather than returning home to Oregon. She is planning to prioritize already existing friendships, but is ready for new ones to form.

“I’ll definitely be building on the friendships that are still in Seattle for the summer, but also I hope that this summer brings new relationships into my life as well,” Gould said. “I don’t know if I have a specific plan for meeting new people, but I’ll be starting a new job and I would anticipate meeting a lot of new people there.”

While she enjoys getting to know students all around campus, Gould also expressed immense gratitude for the friendships she and her roommates have built throughout the year.

“I’ve definitely become really close to two of the girls I live with,” Gould said. “I had known them before this year but only on a surface level, so it has really been amazing watching these relationships grow and change throughout this year.”

Some SPU students may prefer to maintain old friendships, and others might devote their time and energy to bonding with new people, but some hope to do both.

Senior psychology major Devon Yamane struggles to maintain friendships with some of her fellow students, but she has chosen to focus on self-growth during her time in quarantine.

“I have really missed having conversations with dear friends, peers, and professors at SPU that I would only connect with in the context of school,,” Yamane said. “As an introvert, however, I also have loved having time for myself to drift into deep philosophical thought, prayer, and dream about the future.”

Even though she treasures her alone time, Yamane has been able to creatively make new friends during the pandemic.

“There are some friends that I have only met online in Zoom classes, and [they] have become family to me here at home,” Yamane said. “For [those] of them that will still be at SPU next year, it’s going to be such a wild experience to finally meet them in person for the first time.”

Zoom isn’t limited to creating relationships with other students. Yamane recognizes the importance of creating meaningful friendships with her professors as well. Transitioning to online meetings from in-person ones was hard for her initially, but she has gained peace and clarity through these new and different bonding experiences.

“One of my favorite aspects of being at SPU has been sitting in professors’ offices and sharing my life with them in office hours,” Yamane said. “But I quickly learned I could take some of that love and connection back home with me through technology.”

She worries about the current strength of her social skills, but Yamane intends to embrace the challenge of finding new friends this summer.

“I think it’s going to be a fun challenge because I have loved being in my own little world as an introvert, and most of my connections with folks the past year and a half have been through Zoom, Facebook, and Instagram,” Yamane said.

Whether students choose to make new friends this year or focus on bonding with their old ones, they must be deliberate, communicative, and sincere in whichever relationships they decide to focus on.

“Meeting up relies on purposefully sending a message or planning to get together. I’d definitely say that intentionality in relationships has been key for keeping up with others this year,” Gould said.