The college years are a time to meet new people and to make a wide variety of friends. It’s not always as easy as signing up for classes, though, especially if you don’t know many people at your school when you first begin. There’s no sign-up sheet for “friends” at orientation!
Luckily, there are nearly as many ways to successfully meet and get to know new people as there are people to meet. If you’re feeling stuck for inspiration, here are a few tried and true methods:
1.Talk to your neighbors. Whether you live in a dorm or an apartment, it’s a safe bet that someone lives next door to you. Knock on the door and introduce yourself! Even if you don’t turn out to be BFFs, you’ll build a good foundation for a neighborly future—whether that means saying hello every morning, borrowing cup of sugar, or getting the music turned down a notch the night before your exam.
2. Be a joiner at a club, group, sport, church, or any other organization that is a good match for you. The structure of a voluntary activity will get you talking with new people and on the road to friendship from the very first meeting.
3. Buddy up. Is there a class that’s making your brain cramp? Ask some classmates to meet you in the library for a study session. Not only will you make friends, you’ll get the benefit of other people’s thoughts and reflections on your schoolwork, enhancing everyone’s experience.
4. Get a job. If you can land a position someplace either on or off campus that employs several students, you’re sure to end up bonding over the experience. Sometimes, the worse the job, the better the friendships it fosters! Keep in mind that jobs with customer contact, such as working as a server or salesperson, will help you meet and talk with more people than one located back in the office or storeroom.
5.Follow your interests—inside the classroom and out. If you like birds, for instance, try taking a class in ornithology, join the student Bird Watcher’s Association, and apply for a job at an aviary or veterinarian’s office. You’re guaranteed to meet people with the same passions as yourself, and the more places you run into the same folks, the easier it will be to get to know each other.
6. Get online. Sometimes it’s difficult to break the ice with people you’ve never spoken to before. Especially in these digital times, it’s a lot easier to text than phone, and to warm up to a new person in a chat room rather than a brick and mortar one! Don’t just depend on online friends, though—look for digital spaces that students at your school frequent, and allow online friendships to serve as a stepping stone to in-person ones.
7. Ask questions. Wherever you go and whoever you meet, remember that the key to making friends is getting to know one another, and the best way to do that is to ask people about themselves. What is their favorite class? What do they miss about home? Do they have any pets? Listen to the answers with your undivided attention, then ask more questions. Everyone loves to be heard, so prioritize being a good listener.
Above all, be friendly! Remember that your school is full of people just like you—unsure of their new surroundings but looking to build a social network. So wherever you are, look around and share a smile. Keep in mind that new friends don’t actually have to be other college students, so let yourself think outside the box. After all, one of the advantages of having friends is perspective. The more varied your group of friends are in age, interest, and life experience, the more perspective they will be able to lend you and the richer your educational experience will be.
Elisabeth Bailey is a freelance writer and editor with particular interests in academics, food,and sustainability . She is also the author of A Taste of the Maritimes: Local, Seasonal Recipes the Whole Year Round and writes regularly for Canadian Farmers’ Almanac and the National Wildlife Federation. Elisabeth and her family live and enjoy great local food in Lunenburg, Nova Scotia.
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