Amrutha Swaminathan

coffee date #36 with amrutha swaminathan

pre-med, saath cap!, ‘get silly,’ ambassador, fellow biochem partner, that-person-who-refuses-to-waste-food, fellow southie!!!

me: pumpkin spice latte | amrutha: caramel cappuccino
location: small world coffee, princeton

I first “met” Amrutha on a Zoom meeting for Saathiya our freshman year of college (back when everything was virtual). I remember on every single ZOOM meeting we had, Amrutha’s wall would be coated with multiple Taekwondo medals, arranged in a very organized manner. Her head would sit right beneath those medals, making it impossible to not see those accomplishments. During one of those meetings, Amrutha was extremely giddy as she pointed to each medal and explained to the team where and when she won them.

The next ‘interaction’ I had with Amrutha was still virtual, but this time we had a chemistry class together. The way that class worked was we’d have a 15 minute lecture and then the professor would split the class into breakout rooms to work on problems together. Majority of the class never had their cameras on, even when in those 4-5 person breakout rooms. At times, Amrutha and I would be in the same breakout room and I’d see her face against the names of the other people in our group – she’d be the only one (or sometimes one of two) people with her camera on. She’d zoom through those practice problems and every time someone had a question, she’d be ready to help and answer.

A year later, college opened up and all of the faces I once saw on a Zoom screen came to life. Amrutha became one of the captains of our dance team our sophomore year, so I’d see her three times/10 hours a week, at minimum.

After last year, I realized that Amrutha is one of those souls who always had incredibly wholesome energy every time I’d be in her presence. Maybe it’s because of her cute dimple-cheeked smile or her random goofy body movements or her willingness to share everything and anything that could help the other person. I also always respected her ability to balance everything in college – she’s a premed student, taking classes like orgo and physics, while being the captain of a dance team, an Ambassador, and a whole bunch of other things on campus. #bosswoman

Below is a video that I believe accurately sums up Amrutha’s ~vibe~ (fyi she is fully sober). Enjoy 🙂


  • anger.

This was the first time I dissected the feeling of anger. Amrutha separated the emotion of anger in two ways:

“Anger out of care is different from anger out of hate.” – Amrutha Swaminathan, 2022

Amrutha explained that the only person she’s ever actually been angry with is her younger brother. When I reflected, I recognized that I too was only ever truly angry at my brother. I realize that he is one of those few humans who is bound to me for life, so I know that no matter how I react in a given moment, he will still stay and simply does not have the option of running away.

This article (although it refers to anger in romantic relationships, it can be translated to any sort of relationship) encompasses my thoughts beautifully:

This is why, in the interests of the relationship, we might need to tell the partner that they have ruined our life, that they are selfish and infuriating and that we have had more than enough – and the partner, far from getting simply offended (though that has its role too) should take it, and read the explosion for what it is: a homage to the trust and bond between us. That a red faced accuser would never speak like this to anyone else on earth should be interpreted as the greatest privilege.

They don’t just hate you, though they do at the moment, they have a lot of hope in you, and a lot of faith that you love them enough to take their reality – and when it’s blown over, their love will be as sincere as their anger once was.

We should get angry when the occasion fairly demands it; we, the overly meak and cowed ones, should experience how good and necessary it feels to dare to let go and vent our annoyance and irritation without the usual huge (and valuable) inhibitions. We should not be overly scared of the odd loud argument, we should form our irritations into some beautifully creative insults; it is not a sign that everything is coming to an end and love has died, it’s a sign that our relationship still has a lot of kindness, sincerity and tolerance left within it.”

Amrutha also noted that frustration and anger are two separate emotions. Frustration is something that we probably feel with many people and things throughout our day-to-day life. Anger, on the other hand, is a deep, blood-pressure-raising, face-reddening type of feeling.

“Anger is such a bold feeling.” – Amrutha Swaminathan, 2022

In essence, Amrutha made me realize that anger can be a feeling targeted towards people/things we hate AND/OR it can also be a way of showing immense love for an individual.

  • friendships in our twenties.

I didn’t realize how normal it is for people to lose and gain friends throughout their lives until very recently. I thought my loss of connection with some of my ‘best friends’ from middle school and high school was due to my inability to maintain long-lasting relationships. I didn’t know that some connections just naturally come and go for everyone.

“Not everyone likes you back the way you like them.” – Amrutha Swaminathan, 2022

Amrutha described her experience transitioning into college. She had a strong group of friends in high school that naturally dissipated as she entered college. Initially, she was upset over the fact that she no longer shared such a deep connection with the people she spent so many of her adolescent years with. Despite the loss of some friends, Amrutha found another group of people who bring her lots of joy in college. This is how Amrutha described her viewpoint of losing friends in regards to not keeping touch:

“If I lose a friend, it’s equally my fault.” – Amrutha Swaminathan, 2022

Staying connected involves participation from both parties. Oftentimes, a lot of us (me included) may blame the other person for being the sole cause of the end to the friendship – ‘She never texted me to hang out,” “They never face-timed me to check-in,” “She never visited me when she was in town.”

Amrutha states that it’s not just the other person’s fault. It’s also yours. It’s a different story if you put in the effort and they’re not reciprocating. But if neither one of you puts in the effort, then you’re both to blame for that relationship ending.

The importance of understanding that people will come and go is crucial. It will surely hurt in the beginning because these are the people that have etched some part of themselves into us. It will take time to heal that empty space. Even if you lose some people, realize that you will always meet more and more people that will become a part of your life. Life is simply too grand to remain alone. You will find your people.

  • friends can be family too.

The other aspect of friendship that we discussed was the idea of ‘friends becoming family.’

In India, families are incredibly important. Back in my parents’ days, it was almost unheard of for a couple to live on their own. The wife would move in to the husband’s home and proceed to live her married life with her husband, mother-in-law, father-in-law, and maybe even a whole bunch of other relatives from her husband’s side. According to this article, “intergenerational co-residence prevails alongside growth partly because strong family bonds encourage family businesses and low female employment, which in turn strengthen family ties.”

My parents are definitely a lot more modernized and do not believe in the idea of “the man being the breadwinner.” However, their mindsets differ when it comes to friendships. I am more like my dad in regards to the idea of friendships. We both are obsessed with loving our friends with all our hearts and will treat them no differently than how we’d treat any of our relatives. That is because our friends are also equivalent to our family. And this is how Amrutha described her viewpoint of friends as well.

However, there is a strong intersection between culture and friends that I was not entirely aware of. Peiqi et al. (2021) describes this impact of culture on friendships.

“a cross-national study in friendship found that Americans were more likely to have more friends and differentiate between friends; Ghanaians were more cautious toward friends and having a large group of friends (Adams and Plaut, 2003). Likewise, people’s understanding of intimacy in friendship varies across cultures (Keller, 2004a). Compared to Chinese adolescents, Western adolescents emphasize more on relationship intimacy and quality interactions in their friendships (Keller et al., 1998Keller, 2004b). In addition, friendships are more stable and fixed in some societies and more flexible and relationships of choice in other societies. In the latter case, relationships can change more rapidly as people have the freedom to voluntarily choose relationships (i.e., higher relational mobility). As a result, people tend to trust strangers more and are more proactive in maintaining friends, self-disclosing, and provide more support (Schug et al., 2010Thomson et al., 2018). These behaviors are characteristic of friendships in individualistic cultures, as individualistic cultures possess higher relational mobility (Kito et al., 2017).”

The way friends are treated and their roles in an individual’s life varies across cultures! Because there is a cultural impact on friendship, I can’t say what’s the right or wrong way to treat friends. However, I can say that true friendships will provide you with an incredible amount of love, adventures, kindness, and space to grow & heal.

  • class of 2024’s loneliness pandemic.

I am so glad that we got to unpack, reflect, and verbalize this phase of our lives. Being the Class of 2024 meant we lost half of our senior year of high school AND the entirety of our freshman year of college. Remember that ‘transitioning into college and losing friends from high school’ I talked about previously? Well once we lost touch with those high schoolers, we essentially had to ‘wait it out’ until our sophomore year to see if we can make those deep, long-lasting connections again because the pandemic made it extremely difficult to cultivate those connections.

This meant that loneliness was a real ass during that virtual freshman year. Luckily, we were both fortunate enough to be with our families during this time. However, human beings are social creatures, so we craved for more social connection (especially with people our own age lol) to feel seen, known, heard. But making such connections online was impossible (Snapchat isn’t exactly the best way to create a foundation for a real friendship).

Before Amrutha spoke about her similar experience freshman year, I thought I was the only one feeling like a lost puppy and having no clue how the hell college is going to be like without knowing anyone.

This article describes loneliness as something that “points to an unmet need for connection. It’s that grief, anxiety, and sense of loss that comes from missing the fundamental human need for connection. When loneliness sits in our minds and bodies for too long, we can become anxious, withdraw socially, and get stuck in cognitive distortions, such as I am the only one who is feeling this way or I’m going to feel this way forever and it’s my fault.

For any of you incoming freshmen or even students already in college, just give it time. Get involved in things that matter to you on campus, take some time to meet with different people over a cup of coffee or lunch, and then just give it time. College will help you find your tribe, just like Amrutha and I did. Your tribe does not have to involve 10 people. Mine has 1 and Amrutha’s has 2. It will get better and you will find your home. Take a breath.