How a trip to IHOP Helped Me Make Lifelong Friendships

When Husker English and psychology major Kate Vermilyea came to Nebraska as a first-year student from Sergeant Bluff, Iowa, she worried about how she’d overcome the shift from growing up in a small town to making friends at a large, out-of-state university. Kate shares her story about how an impromptu decision to meet people on her floor led to a four-year tradition and lifelong friends.

The first two questions everyone asked me when I told them I was going to college out of state were “do you know anyone else attending UNL?” quickly followed by “how are you going to make friends?” Those were the two questions racking my brain as my dad dropped me off on floor 3 of Abel Hall. As I watched him drive away from my window like I was in a dramatic coming-of-age college movie, it finally sunk in that not only did I not know anyone in my residence hall, but I didn’t know anyone on the entire campus. I grew up in a small town, so the idea of not knowing anyone was terrifying. My friends in high school were the same as in kindergarten; I knew coming to college I was going to have to take the initiative to step outside of my comfort zone and meet people.

A few days passed with a few casual “hellos” here and there, but — besides my roommate and my neighbors — I hadn’t found the tight-knit circle of friends I desperately wanted. The first Friday night came around and my roommate, two neighbors and I knew we had to make the first leap. We decided to go up and down the long floor of Abel 3 and ask anyone and everyone if they wanted to get late-night pancakes at the local IHOP. We all hopped in a car that was much too small to fit all of us and made our way to eat stacks and stacks of overly-sweetened breakfast goodness.

The group consisted of people from over five different states, more than six different academic majors, and all different backgrounds, but we had two things in common: we were all new to the university, and we loved to eat. By making that small first step, we were able to create a bond that seemed small at the time but has lasted the entirety of our college careers. Every Friday we take turns selecting a new restaurant around Lincoln. This tradition has not only allowed us to grow deep and long-lasting connections, but also allows us to explore a city that was new to all of us through trying every local restaurant we could find.

It just so happened that we all had a passion for trying new restaurants, but this same idea could be applied to seeing new movies at the local theater every week, trying new coffee shops, or going to see local plays or bands around the city. Finding a common bond opens the door for further conversation and helps to develop thriving friendships. Over my four years of college at UNL, friendships have come and gone, but my Friday night dinner group has been a source of stability, comfort, and, most importantly, support. Despite the fact that putting yourself out there is hard, even the smallest gesture (such as an invitation to IHOP) can open you up to a loving, encouraging support system that you never knew you needed.

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