So, do you think we’ll be friends forever?

Such a question may sound a little over-dramatic, but when a bunch of finalists start to reflect on the status of their friendships in their last year of university, this question feels like a valid one.

Speaking from personal experience, my uni friends are now people I’ve known for nearly three years, who I met in first year when we were all small and scared and homesick, desperate to impress at our first group pres. Suddenly, you’re all in it together. Within days, these strangers become friends through the universal bonding experiences of being sick or crying in front of each other, the first of many such incidents…

These bonds step up a level with the room ballot, and so you go from friends to housemates to slightly co-dependent members of a dysfunctional family. Perhaps you’ve found that you now can’t eat lunch, walk to Tesco, or go to Hall without each other.

These are the people that now, in lockdown, you could call and just sit in silence with, or find yourself laughing at nothing with, because there’s an understanding there built on years of mutual stress and misery, years of group cooking, drinking and crying. It’s like an ideal old marriage – you know each other’s quirks and failings, and you accept everything they have to offer.

But, naturally, like all good things, it must come to an end. A lucky few will stay on for a fourth year, but for many, their lives will change for good once third year  ends. This year, perhaps, it feels like the end has already begun. Far too soon, we’ve lost those friends who we only see in the library, or in the corridor, who we’d happily embrace in Fever but never really talk to in real life. The current crisis has encouraged us to cling to our nearest and dearest, with those relationships we couldn’t quite pin down falling out of our lives, maybe for good.

But pandemic or not, every year group must learn to say goodbye eventually.

Yet, crucially, finalist friendships don’t end with finals. With a bit of luck those bonds we form will be the good long-lasting kind. Hopefully we’ll one day be there at each other’s weddings, and (very far in the future) each other’s funerals. As with secondary school friends that we still have ties to, friendships change and evolve outside of the setting they once were made in, and the really great ones grow with us.

Most of us couldn’t possibly guess where we’ll be in five years, or ten, and that’s enough to make anyone feel a little nervous. But, cheesy as it sounds, having friends that will be by your side throughout it all makes anything feel less scary. Because it’s not the end of the road for our friendships when we graduate, but the start of a new, much longer journey that we have the pleasure to share together.

(Shout out to my friends – love you guys)

With illustration by Miles Sheldon

Sarah Lewis

Sarah is a non-fiction contributor, primarily writing about film, TV and music. When she's not writing she enjoys spending time on the Cornish coast, and working on her poetry.