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5 Ways to Make Friends in a New City

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Recently we’ve talked about applying for a job in a new place.

Now, I want to talk about the most important question to ask when you get there.

The question that’s more important than how you’re going to get to work. More important than where you’re going to live. More important than what to wear on your first day at the office.

What is this question that trumps all others?

How are you going to make friends in a new city?

Honestly, isn’t this the scariest part about relocating?

I was terrified when I first moved to San Francisco from Hawaii. Maybe I was more freaked out than your average person because I’m pretty darn awkward. When given the option of hanging out with new people or staying in and watching Netflix, I will always choose Netflix. Always.

Upon moving to this city, I racked my brain trying to remember how I’d made friends in college.

When I discovered the answer, instead of feeling comforted, I ended up more scared than before.

In college, I had basically been forced to make friends. The freshman dorms had thrown a bunch of us newbies into one hall and our friendless selves had clung to each other out of sheer desperation.

Then I was put in classes with people who shared similar interests. This resulted in some more friendships.

These are situations that the college atmosphere provides. But, after you graduate, those situations no longer occur.

How can someone who’s not naturally outgoing survive social life after college?

Don’t worry. The crew at AfterCollege (a pretty friendly bunch if you ask us!) came up with 5 ways to make friends in a new city.

1. Be open to meeting friends of friends

When I first moved to the city, I lived with a friend whom I hadn’t seen in six years. We no longer had an extensive list of mutual friends. Instead, I was a stranger when it came to her circle.

My best friend moved to the city at the same time as me, but she was moving with her boyfriend. He had gone to school here and already had a bunch of close friends living in the area.

Basically, I was the one who didn’t have a core group of people to fall back on.

Still, when invited to group activities, I was tempted to fall back on my loner Netflix ways. But then I really thought about it. What would happen when I’d watched all the decent movies and TV shows? I would be left alone in a new city watching an old episode of Say Yes to the Dress.

I knew that I had to suck it up and join in these group activities.

I started going to pub trivia on Thursday nights and slowly included myself to more and more outings. Sure, it was awkward at first, but slowly it became easier and easier as strangers became acquaintances and then turned into people I now consider friends.

2. Join a sports team

Joining a team can really help you break the ice with new friends. It doesn’t even have to be a real sports team. I joined a “Recess” team that mixes a variety of sports followed by drinks and rounds of flip cup.

AfterCollege’s Interaction Designer, Jessica Moore, joined a hockey team and though she knew no one at first, she traveled with them to a Las Vegas tournament. There’s truly nothing like a road trip to get acquainted with people and FAST.

University Relations Engagement Associate, Javier Suazo, joined a running group called the Hashers. “We run to keep healthy and get together for pub crawls and special events in different cities around the world. Hashers are world wide and I’ve met thousands of Hashers and have formed close bonds with many of them. It’s a camaraderie that spans people from all walks of life.”

3. Take a class

Consider taking a yoga, Zumba, new language, or even wine tasting class. It’s a great way to meet people with similar interests and will provide you with something to start a conversation about.

Not only that, but it allows you to have a regular meeting time and place.

Melissa Suzuno, Content Marketing Manager at AfterCollege, has found that to be the case: “One of the challenges of making new friends is that it’s hard to know people’s schedules and availability, but you already know at least an hour when your classmates are available. This makes it easy to suggest grabbing a coffee or drink or meeting up to study (or whatever else makes sense) in the hour before or after class.”

4. Volunteer

Volunteering can be a great way to make new connections. Working for a cause or event, especially if it’s an annual event, can provide the foundation for a long-lasting friendship.

Javier Suazo is no stranger to volunteering.

“I have volunteered with one group or another for most of my life. I made many connections that benefited me both socially and professionally. When I moved to San Francisco, I realized my connections did not extend this far west. Fortunately I have family out here and through my cousin I discovered the Castro Street Fair. There I met the executive director of the fair and Bay 2 Breakers. We developed a friendship and I ended up volunteering for both events over the last six years.”

5. Reach Out to Alumni

You’d be surprised how many online groups there are for alumni. I belong to two groups on Facebook. One is an alumni group for people from my high school living in San Francisco and the other is a group for University of Redlands Alumni in the Bay Area. Both of these groups get together after work on certain days of the week to hang out, catch up, and grab a beer or two.

Melissa Suzuno recommends using your alumni network for more than just making friends. Caitlin Shrigley saw that Melissa had posted about AfterCollege internships on Reed’s “Switchboard” (a Craigslist like page for current students and alumni). She contacted Melissa for an informational interview and ended up being featured in a post about the Thomas J. Watson Fellowship. Though their meeting didn’t end in a friendship per se, both Caitlin and Melissa still benefited from this connection.

“Be open-minded about how you approach people and what you gain from those meetings. Sometimes it might be a professional connection rather than a friendship—and that’s okay!” says Melissa.

Moving to a new place is exciting and full of possibilities, but making friends can be an intimidating task. In order to meet new people you are going to have to put yourself out there. You no longer have the college environment to throw you together with strangers, but that doesn’t mean you can’t find ways to meet people with similar interests. It’s definitely possible to make new friends as a twentysomething!

Homework time! Do some research. What classes, sports teams, or organizations are there in your new neighborhood / city? Are there any alumni networks to join (for friendship and professional pursuits)? Plan something that involves friends of friends—a dinner party, pub crawl, etc. Don’t be afraid to put yourself out there.

P.S. Have an experience to share about making friends after college? Leave a comment below!

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