With the fall semester winding down or finished for many college students in America, most of them will be traveling back home for the holidays to go see their family and take a break from schoolwork and exams. But in leaving their college campuses and going back to their immediate families, they are also leaving behind a second family that they cultivated throughout their time at school, their friends.
The phrase “friends are family” is a common one that can be heard in song lyrics, to article headlines, to artsy pictures hanging on walls around the world. And for most people, the scenario that they figure the truth behind this phrase is when they first leave their immediate family for an extended period of time. The tendency in this scenario is for people to substitute in for their family their close friends and treat them the same.
For many of my friends and I here at school this very same thing is true. Personally, my immediate and actual family is a two-hour drive away and makes it hard for me to keep in touch except for phone calls and text messages. But for my friends its different. I have had the same core group of friends since my freshman year and I treat them as I do my immediate family. If I need help or advice with a problem or want to hang out and spend time with someone, my friends are the people I turn to first with no exceptions. They are as honest with me as my own mother, and don’t mind if I pick their brain about an issue I’m having personally. The part that most matches my family back home for me, is that they are always around during the school year, and they are close. It doesn’t take long to get a hold of any of my friends since they are all in the same area. I treat them as I would my brothers or sisters and for the most part they treat me the same way as well.
Obviously there are some differences, the main one being that you choose them yourself. With your immediate family you don’t get a choice in who they are, what type of people they are and how they treat you. With your friends that’s totally different. If you don’t like someone you can jettison them from your friend group and replace them with someone else. This is much harder to do with your family and probably for good reason. This aspect of your immediate family also creates a stronger bond with them that you have with a strong core friend group because it is very easy to kick someone out of your group. And on the other side of this dynamic if your friends don’t like you, then you can be jettisoned just as easily, while it can be very hard for your actual family to disown or kick you out.
What’s very interesting is that this dynamic is not limited to college students or people who have moved away from their family. These bonds don’t take to long to form and there are many examples of this that I can draw on from my personal life. A huge group of people that I consider my friends and family are not fellow college students here at UW-Whitewater, but are the people that I spent two summers marching Drum Corps International with. I only spent a total of maybe half a year total with these people but the friendships, bonds and relationships that everyone makes together in this experience can really only be compared to what a large family would have. Many of these people live around the country and around the world and yet I consider them some of my closest friends because of the experience we shared together. If they ever need anything they can call on me and I can call on them because of our relationships together. It’s truly amazing to see.
That being said, some people who may not have a strong core group of friends may disagree with my characterization and recognition of this dynamic in relationships. Some people are more suited to floating through life without a core group of friend and so they may miss out on these types of relationships. Some people aren’t in the same place long enough for them to make these relationships themselves and so they don’t experience the dynamic. Some people have families so large they don’t need friends to supplement or support them while they are away from home. But for hopefully the majority of people they have experience what I have talked about.
I think the best part of this dynamic is that it is truly international and not limited to any culture. I mainly cited my own experiences because I could speak personally about the dynamic but one doesn’t have to be from Wisconsin, or America, or the Western world to see this dynamic in work. When it all comes down to it, we are human, and to us, Friends are family.
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