The first weeks of school are a precious time. We haven’t reached the onslaught of group projects, exams and papers all due at once, we have time to sit in the grass and throw sticks at passersby, and everyone is overjoyed to see each other again. But one of the most beautiful things in my opinion is the general openness that people have towards each other.

Being a fifth-year is a funny thing because I feel like I now see the friendship cycle through college, at least as I’ve experienced it. My first and second years were full of big group hang-outs and connector rendezvous that often ended in random groups of people hanging out till 4 a.m. and cutting each others’ hair while eating pretzels. Friendship circles were open and permeable. Junior year, I experienced to be a slightly more divided scene, with clear boundaries between groups that I felt uncomfortable penetrating.  But senior year was a nice contrast, I found it to be a strange, yet joyous renewal of the “big-group” social dynamic that our first year was characterized by. It was almost like we knew we were all going to disperse, so we wanted to spend as much time all together as we could.

I realize part of the struggle during college is making sense of finding a close, intimate group of friends maintaining other friendships with people you enjoy as well. I believe it’s possible to invest in close friendships while maintaining openness to discovering new friendships. Remaining secure in who you are, and being receptive to others is a beautiful thing—something I recognize in others and strive for myself.

In Monday’s chapel, John D. Roth, professor of history, said of Mennonites, “Strong, living, dynamic communities, animated by the love of Christ, will always have permeable, porous boundaries. Healthy communities will be characterized by a posture of hospitality and embrace rather than by boundaries that exclude.”

I love this statement. I hope each of us chooses to carry a spirit of openness—the same spirit we carry at the beginning of each school year—in order to fully embrace the incredible people we’re surrounded by on this campus each day.