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When I graduated college, I accepted a job in a different state over 500 miles away from home. I was excited to explore the world and wanted to start my new adult life with a fresh scene. However, after the first week of unpacking and excitement wore off, I started to fully grasp the reality of starting completely over. Unfortunately, forming new friendships seems to get tougher at every stage in life, and while I feel like I’m in a better place now, it was a rough adjustment. I’m still in a process of establishing relationships in my new state, but here are my best tips for getting started in making friends.
Dig into your network. Check out where some of your Facebook friends have ended up or where their friends have gone. You might be surprised how small the world is. I asked around and found out someone who graduated from my university also just moved to the area. We met through our mutual acquaintances and have enjoyed exploring the city together.
Ask your professors if they know anyone in your field you should meet in your new home or if they have former students who have also moved there. Not only could you meet a friend, but a career mentor or network contact! There’s nothing to lose, but so much to gain by just reaching out.
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Join a club. Whether you’re into sports, reading, knitting, or the outdoors, there are so many club opportunities. My second week post-move, I joined my company’s book club. This has helped me meet more people outside my department who share my love for a good book (or three). Maybe for you it’s volunteering at your local animal shelter or joining a local gym. I also recommend going on Meetup.com. There are groups who do everything from Harry Potter bar crawls (um, yes!?) to kayaking on a local river — it can be helpful to find clubs that fit your specific interests.
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Wander. New environments expose you to tons of new people and new organizations to join. Take a stroll downtown in your new city or visit a coffee shop to see what events are happening in your area. You might be surprised what (or who) you find!
Say yes. Drinks? Rock climbing? Trivia night? Anytime someone invites you to do something, say “yes” unless you truly have a good excuse to say “no.” The opportunity to grab lunch with a coworker could lead to a lasting friendship, but you’ll never know unless you say yes.
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Get chatty. I know this might make introverts cringe, but it really does make a difference. I struggle making small talk with strangers, but every time I’ve forced myself to start up a conversation with someone, I’ve been glad I did. Ask that girl what she’s reading in the coffee shop or your neighbor about their dog. Heck, start up a conversation in the lunch line at work. The more you practice, the better you’ll become at initiating conversation with strangers, who will hopefully turn into your best amigos
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Keep up your current relationships. Just because you and your besties are no longer in the same city, doesn’t mean you can’t stay in touch through a dedicated long-distance relationship. Schedule weekly Bachelor-watching dates on Skype, start a chain email, or find time to go on vacation together. Call your parents, siblings, and other family members. Deeper, more meaningful conversations with your loved ones will build you up and keep you sane when you find your days full of small talk with unfamiliar coworkers and neighbors.
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Make yourself a regular. For my first couple of months, I created a routine of grocery shopping at my local store every Sunday afternoon. After a few weeks, the cashiers began to recognize me, and we’d spend time chatting. While we may not be the best of friends, it helped make the new city feel more my own.
Of course, there are plenty more things you can do in a new state or city to meet new people and make friends. These are just tips that have worked for me. As a rule of thumb, I think the best attitude to have is being open to everyone and everything. Your tribe will come. And your current friends will support you before and even after they do.