By Chad Campbell

As one of over 600 freshmen joining Purdue’s College of Agriculture in August 2018, Cole Pearson worried about getting lost in the crowd. Doubly so, since he felt like he was missing half of himself since Pearson’s identical twin brother chose a different university.

“He and I are very tight,” explained Pearson. “I’ve always had an automatic best friend in him. So coming to Purdue, I didn’t have that one person to rely on.”

Cole Pearson smiling in class
Cole Pearson, Agricultural Economics, Photo by Tom Campbell

“I was worried during my first semester that I was on a path where I was not making friends. Friendships, like most things, take effort. I found that if you are willing to introduce yourself and participate in groups, it will not be difficult.”

A’Lee McGrue felt similar concerns to Pearson, even though she entered Purdue more experienced with being in a new place than nearly any other freshman. Coming from a military family, she had moved ten times, including to California, Washington D.C., Texas and Guam.

McGrue’s advice on getting plugged in? “The best way to make friends is unplugging from technology. In the basement of the Purdue Memorial Union, there are tables with signs welcoming people to sit next to them. Sit next to someone with a green sign and start a conversation.”

Taking her own advice introduced McGrue to one of her closest friends, an exchange student from Germany. “I simply asked if I could sit next to him and then proceeded to ask him how he was doing. Although his culture is different from mine, we found a lot of common ground. Then, through each other, we met even more friends.”

McGrue also notes the value of club involvement, but she adds that it takes time to adjust.

A'Lee McGrue among other students in class
A'Lee McGrue, Food Science, Photo by Tom Campbell

“During the fall I had a full class load and was in three clubs. At first, it was very challenging being able to multitask everything. When I would put more effort into my clubs, my grades would take a hit. But when I put more effort into my classes, everything was fine. Club members understand school is the priority.”

“I find that having a club meeting or social event two or three nights a week helps me be more successful in my schoolwork. It is good to have some time each day to be alone and some time with others. If you can be well-rounded in your experiences, then you will be more successful.”

McGrue advises students to take advantage of opportunities for assistance. “I would recommend going to office hours. Your professors are there to help you. This allows them to get to know you and how you function personally.”

“Most importantly, keep in contact with your advisors at least once a month. That allows them to know what you’re like.”

“I know I grew as a person over my freshman year,” said Pearson, who was selected as the 2019 Outstanding Freshman in Agricultural Economics. “My family noticed the difference. Now, I’m looking forward to being an Ag Ambassador as a sophomore and showing students all the great parts of Purdue.”

McGrue’s family noticed a similar change. “When I came home, my parents saw how happy I was and how much more mature I became. Being able to be myself and not having to filter who I am made me so happy.” She now looks forward to reuniting with her friends on campus and making new ones. So, if you see her at a table with a green welcome sign in the Union, pull up a chair.

A sign on a table in the union welcoming others to take a seat