Friendships Made With People from Close to Home and Thousands of Miles Away: How SLU Brought Us All Together | St. Lawrence University

Friendships Made With People from Close to Home and Thousands of Miles Away: How SLU Brought Us All Together

Tuesday, May 12, 2020

Growing up in a small town, it wasn’t often that I came into contact with people outside of my town’s bubble. That’s how I felt for the first 18 years of my life­­––trapped in a bubble with the same few hundred people. I was fairly well-traveled for someone living in a hybrid suburban-rural Upstate New York town, but I never felt very fulfilled by the experiences I had during that time. It’s not that I wasn’t making meaningful friendships or memories, it was more that I knew I was missing something. Everyone I was surrounded by had experienced the same town, the same streets, the same teachers, the same world essentially, until I arrived at St. Lawrence.

Before arriving at SLU in the fall of my first year, I was already excited to meet my teammates on the women’s volleyball team for the first time because of their far-reaching hometowns. I remember receiving our team contact list, and seeing some far-away states in the little squares with each of the players’ names. My eyes widened while reading “Arizona and Hawaii.” I had never travelled to the West Coast and was excited to be around new people who hadn’t grown up in Ballston Spa, New York. However, there were some very familiar cities in the squares as well: Fort Edward, South Glens Falls, Queensbury, and Niskayuna–four towns that were only 25 minutes away from where I lived. Little did I know the deep and everlasting connections and I would make with not only my teammates from thousands of miles away, but the ones closest to me as well.

Prior to my time at St. Lawrence, I had already known some of my soon-to-be-teammates through high school rivalries or playing for local club teams together. Our connections grew stronger the more time we spent in Burkman Gymnasium together. Through every practice, we sweat together, laughed together, and competed together, and doing those things with these people created a bond between us that not many people understand. We had epic lip sync battles before every game, and this was when I noticed the most it doesn’t matter where we came from. The second our victory song rang through the locker room, we were together, as one. 

My current roommate and I played on the same club team when we were sophomores in high school, but our time together at St. Lawrence has been a catalyst for our bond and friendship. We often reminisce when looking back at old photos of us playing together, as our friendship has grown into something so special since then. As we often tell everyone, we are polar opposites, but somehow get along so well. She has dark hair, I’m a blonde, she’s a night owl, I’m a morning person, she listens to rap, I listen to indie, but I believe our differences are what make us appreciate our friendship so much more. One of my favorite memories with her was when I finally learned a verse of her favorite rap song, she was so excited she nearly tackled me when she hugged me.

On the other hand, I never thought my college experience would include having a best friend that lives in Hawaii. You might know her if you’ve ever seen someone walking into Dana barefoot (don’t worry, they told her to put shoes on) or eating some SPAM. She has never dulled down the parts of her identity that are rooted in her home state, and this is something I love most about her. For the first few weeks of getting to know her, I constantly asked her questions about what it was like growing up in Hawaii, but I soon learned how similar we were despite growing up thousands of miles away from each other.

Being a part of the athletic community at SLU has introduced me to even more students from all across the country and around the world, and having the pride of representing our school on the court, the field or the ice gives us a special way to relate to one another. Every athletic team supports one another through our successes and failures, and this spirited and supportive culture is what allows the Saints athletic teams to be so successful. Another one of my favorite memories from being an athlete was from this past pre-season. My team was just finishing up a practice and huddled in the circle, ready to give our final “Saints!” before leaving practice. The men’s soccer team happened to be walking by, and stopped in the gym to join our huddle. Our simultaneous “Saints!” rang through the walls of Burkman, something that still makes me smile to this day.

St. Lawrence is often labeled as a bubble, too. But inside our bubble, I have found some best friends who live only a few miles down the street, and some that live multiple plane rides away. I have felt this reach of our community many times even when I wasn’t on campus. This past winter, I was traveling home from South Korea and was walking through Narita Airport in Tokyo when I finally reached my terminal and stopped next to a pole to drop my bags and rest. A man with the kindest face approached me, pointing at my shirt: I was wearing a grey long sleeve proudly displaying the shield and reading “St. Lawrence Volleyball.”

“Do you go to St. Lawrence?” he asked.

“Yeah, I do,” I answered.

“I went there a long time ago, class of ‘87!” he replied.

We had a quick little chat before he had to continue to his gate, but I was in awe of the connection I had just made. But that only confirms how far our community extends, and that comes from the culture of friendship that St. Lawrence creates. It’s not every day that you bump into an alumnus or alumna of your college in an airport halfway across the world from your hometown, but looking back, it doesn’t surprise me that much. That’s the St. Lawrence way, to connect with others, no matter how different or similar you are.