First impressions count for freshmen

Many students claim their first friendships are ones that last.

by Amanda Bankston

About a month ago, Kaleb Osagie  left the University of Minnesota and moved to Chicago to pursue his dream âÄî to become an actor. He insists it wouldnâÄôt have happened without his best friend, Kalid Hussein . 

âÄúHe would stay up late with me and run lines for my audition to get into this [acting] conservatory,âÄù Osagie, a former political science major at the University of Minnesota, said.  âÄúKalid is a lot of the reason I believed I could do this.âÄù 

For them, like many other lasting friendships on campus, it all started during what he remembers as the awkward first few moments of college life.  They met at freshman orientation, and reunited during the first ever Welcome Week in summer 2008.

Osagie said the bond they created during those first few moments sparked a friendship that will last a lifetime.

From late night, Red Bull-fueled study sessions in Pioneer Hall, to membership in the same fraternity and housing, Osagie said the pair has shared just about everything for the past three years âÄî even a common dream for the future. 

They hope to move to California and take over Hollywood in a few years, he said, with Hussein âÄî a Cinema and Media Culture senior âÄî writing screenplays for Osagie to perform on the big screen. 

Prachi Mishra, a senior management student said Osagie and HusseinâÄôs relationship is not a rarity.  She said many of her friends can trace their closest relationships back to their very first moments on campus. 

âÄúItâÄôs funny because when we were at [the Multicultural Center for Academic Excellence] they told us some of the people we would meet there were going to be our friends for the rest of our college careers,âÄù Mishra said. âÄúI never believed it.âÄù

But for Mishra, that statement now rings true.  She met one of her best friends at the MCAEâÄôs Multicultural Kickoff (MKO) within her first 20 minutes on campus.

âÄúOur personalities are just so strikingly similar,âÄù she said. âÄúWeâÄôre loud, outgoing, klutzy.  I had a lot of friends in high school, but never anybody so like me.âÄù

She said by the end of the first day, they were able to finish each otherâÄôs sentences. It made her first days of classes a little more bearable.

Osagie never suspected he would grow so close to someone who appeared so different from him at first glance.

âÄúHe was a nerd.  I was a jock,âÄù he said. âÄúNobody thought we would end up best friends.âÄù

But he said the best thing about University welcome programs âÄî and college life in general âÄî is their ability to break some of the barriers that exist in everyday life.

âÄúThey take random people and throw them together,âÄù he said. âÄúI really like that idea because it forced me to interact with people outside of my traditional group.âÄù

âÄòA little more freedom âĦ a little easier to adjustâÄô

Foday Momoh said he would have never guessed that his freshman orientation would be the start to the brotherhood that has defined his college experience. 

At orientation, he met a student with a similar background, and sparked up a conversation. 

âÄúI felt so distant from a lot of the other students at first,âÄù he said. âÄúBut knowing that we had things in common let me know that IâÄôm not alone.âÄù

The two kept in touch and hung out during MKO and Welcome Week where they met four more young men from similar African backgrounds. 

Soon, they had a visible bond that earned the group a name âÄîTeam Africa.

Momoh said what started as a joke ended up as a label they took pride in.  They now operate a non-profit under that name that plans events and community service activities that celebrate African culture on campus. 

Eric Kamp said he never would have met one of his close friends, Amber Dvorak, had it not been for the Welcome Week atmosphere. 

Their first interactions were during ice-breakers in a small breakout group where they realized their common love for sports.

âÄúSheâÄôs hard not to notice and talk to,âÄù Kamp said of the 6-foot-7-inch Gopher womenâÄôs basketball player who he frequently hangs out with.  âÄúSheâÄôs so energetic and outgoing. ThatâÄôs what really drew me in.âÄù

Today, he makes a point to attend a few of her games to cheer her on.  He said the friendship made it easier to adjust to the University, where he only knew one other person when he arrived.

Mishra said it was difficult to open up to complete strangers but it had to be done. She and her best friend shared that lesson with the last two classes of freshman MKO participants as former ambassadors.

âÄúItâÄôs going to be awkward,âÄù she said.  âÄúIâÄôm just straight up.  I start talking about myself and hope I put something out there for someone to grab onto.âÄù

As an ambassador, she said feedback from students indicated that fostering those friendships was the biggest help to first-year students.

âÄúAt MCAE, our goal is to help minorities become aware of all the resources available on campus,âÄù she said, âÄúAnd yet, year after year, the biggest thing people take away is meeting really good friends those first couple of days.âÄù 

All agreed that the environment and nature of entering a new experience together is a lot of what makes these first chance meetings so crucial and impactful.

âÄúWe were all in limbo,âÄù Mishra said. âÄúWe were all clinging to each other to make this place feel a little more comfortable.âÄù

Now that Osagie is out in the âÄúreal world,âÄù he said he has a better appreciation for Hussein and the University welcome programs.

âÄúWhen you come to college, itâÄôs really scary to meet new people,âÄù he said. âÄúBut the [University] gives you a little more freedom and makes it feel a little easier to adjust.

âÄúThatâÄôs probably the reason I havenâÄôt clicked with anybody like that since the first week of college, and I probably never will.âÄù