It feels like every time I check my Facebook news feed, there’s a ton of pictures of people I barely knew from high school, who are now at college, with people I’ve never seen before in my life – new friends. And while I’ve had no trouble making new friends of my own, there’s a feeling you get when you see everyone else uploading the highlights of their friendships. I don’t know if this is true for other people, but I’ve always tended to be rather creative, and I end up thinking of stories about how people became friends. How did their friendship start off? Where did they meet? Was it at a random freshman party, or at a dorm, or just randomly in a coffee shop while they were trying to study? (Just kidding, there’s not a chance in hell that I’m combining study with a cup of coffee – or five – and wanting to talk to strangers.)
But that’s all in a college environment. It seems super easy to make friends quickly when you’re surrounded by people who are all round about the same age as you, and are most likely just as nervous about making friends as you are. So how do you make friends just as easily without being in a college environment? What if you’ve decided to take a gap year and you want to work towards something other than tertiary education? I’ve read so many stories about how hard it is to make new friends the older you get, and so often you hear about “real” adults – you know, the ones that aren’t living on ramen every night and are able to pay rent and utilities bills on time – being connected to most of their friends because they probably all went to the same college together.
Trust me – I have friends who aren’t going to college and they’re just fine. So here’s a short list of ideas to strike up conversations, places to hang out, or just general advice to follow on how to meet some awesome, new friends:
The easiest place to meet people is at a club. No, not the kind where you get drunk off your face and forget what exactly happened to the one party member who wandered off at 1 in the morning. I mean the kind where you meet up with people who have common interests and talk about stuff, like a book club. Have a public library near you? Find out what kind of activities it offers to your community – you’ll be surprised at what you’ll find. Libraries aren’t lame or boring if you know what you’re there for. Another place that might host evenings of fun would be your local coffee shop, or a bar (if you’re of legal age to drink), as bars usually have quiz nights lined up every week.
If you’re working over a gap year or just because that’s what you chose instead of tertiary education, you are most likely not alone. Especially if you’re working in popular international exchange programs, like au pairing or working for summer camps and volunteering in other countries, meeting like-minded people won’t be hard at all. Bonus: you get to have friends from all over the world who can show you the best of their country if you ever decide to visit them later on in life. If you’re a new recruit in the workforce, find a mentor who will show you the ropes and guide you through the transition period.
Most importantly, keep in contact with the people you were close with in high school. It might not seem like you guys will have much in common, especially if they’re going off to college, but you might be surprised by who you become friends with through them. One of my best friends was introduced to me through someone I knew at high school, and although we live in different countries now we’ve never been able to go through a day without sending the other a quick message.
If it seems like the world is too big for you to tackle, and you’re having problems relating to people, don’t worry about it too much. Take some baby steps – things aren’t as giant as you think they are.