An Open Letter to Those Wanting to Build Strong Relationships
By Meghan Reilly
Dear freshman-year me,
Four years ago, you attended a leadership pre-orientation before beginning your first year of college. One of the activities you participated in was writing a letter to your future self, and I came across that letter the other day. You, my freshman year self, didn’t write about being nervous for classes or any of the stuff that many people tend to worry about right before college. Instead, you wrote about a relationship with a family member that you had ended just days before leaving for school. This was a really emotional time for you, and it showed in this letter. You talked about the broken relationship and how you felt that you couldn’t trust people as a result. You expressed hope that one day you would be able to find this trust in others again, and I’m happy to say that you did, and to great success.
One of the most important themes of your college journey will be relationships. Sure, some relationships will be tumultuous distractions and end badly, but the overwhelming majority will be full of friendship, love, happiness, and respect. The relationships that you create at college are truly some of the most impactful and long-lasting friendships that you’ll ever have. Because you decided to somewhat randomly take Prof. Mueller’s ancient Greek class freshman year, you’ll meet your best friend (and become good friends with Prof. Mueller, too). The Classics Department at Union will rapidly become your home, where every single professor welcomes you with open arms and a piping hot cup of espresso.
And while you’ll quickly find your niche, I’m proud to say that you’ll branch out as well. You’ll become close friends and coffee-mates with a professor from the Math Department, of all places, whose office happened to be next door to your Greek classes. He’ll even manage to convince you to sign up for a math course despite your insistence that you will never, ever take math at Union. You’ll meet a wonderful retired librarian in an exercise class, and he will become one of your most ardent supporters. You’ll have friends on the other side of the world in China from your term abroad and research trip there. When I look back on it all, I am so grateful for all of the connections that you will make as a result of your determination to explore and try new things.
Because of your relationships with others, many of which will begin by mere chance and a willingness to say “hi” and roll with it, you’ll be able to find the support that you need throughout your (often stressful) college journey, which will give you the ability to succeed and, most importantly, enjoy yourself. Those relationships are ones that you will carry with you for the rest of your lifetime. Since graduating, I’ve learned that even a short email now and then works wonders in maintaining a relationship with a professor or former co-worker. It’s a lot harder to keep up with people when you can’t just walk into their office to say hi, but it’s well worth the effort of typing up some updates every few weeks or months.
While your collegiate experience may have begun with the ending of one relationship, it has since blossomed into many beautiful new ones. Despite your reluctance to trust others at the beginning, you’ll still manage to open up because of your willingness to try new things. I encourage you to continue to place that trust in others by forming, and most importantly, maintaining these relationships. Creating a network can be a scary concept, but when you develop true bonds with others, it becomes easy and fun. Don’t try and form relationships for the sole purpose of a job or the like, but instead make a true connection and watch the opportunities flow from there.
I’m proud of you for all that you will have accomplished in these four years since that letter. You’ll challenge and push yourself despite always claiming to have no motivation at all. You’ll try things that you never imagined, like learning Chinese and taking dance classes. By remaining open to new experiences, you’ll discover things about yourself that you never knew existed. Keep that openness. Don’t let anybody or anything keep you from discovering the world and yourself with open eyes and an eager heart.
Meghan during her freshman year (left) and senior year (right)
About the author: Meghan graduated from Union College as a double major in Classics and Chinese with an Economics minor in June, 2020. She is currently working as a tutor and eagerly awaiting her January start date for her Fulbright English Teaching Assistantship (ETA) award to Taiwan. Meghan is passionate about access to education and working with underserved populations, and is currently considering a career in teaching. She also anticipates attending graduate school within the next few years. These days, Meghan spends her spare time writing emails to her professors from college, reading, and baking.