I’d like to believe that I know a lot of people around campus.
I’ve had friends tell me that “I know everyone,” after having walked around campus with them, greeting various people that had passed by us. I definitely don’t know all 36,000 students that attend North Campus, but I’ve always been one to make connections and friends, and be able to adapt well socially when placed in new environments — like first year university.
Making friends in university is hard. Students often face high amounts of stress, financial strain and mental health struggles. The pandemic has made things even harder and social isolation has taken its toll — especially on groups like international students. University often comes across as a hostile environment and not one that is conducive to making friendships. That being said, doing the scary thing and stepping outside of your comfort zone to try and meet new people, is well worth it.
I may come across as an extrovert to some, but the reality is, I’m an ambivert — meaning someone who displays both extroversion and introversion — with major tendencies to introversion. However, I’ve learned over time the importance of social connections, and have found that anyone can make meaningful friendships if put into the right environment.
For those of you who also find yourself struggling to make friends during the pandemic, there’s a few things I’ve done to connect with the broader U of A community which are great for finding friends!
In the simplest terms, social media. I personally have a natural need to lead, so I made my presence known in the unofficial U of A discord server. I’ve also made or applied for moderator in my class chats, created the U of A and UBC servers for my year and even made a small discord for U of A students who are fans of IKEA (not an official U of A club). You don’t even have to be a leader in these settings to meet people, but you just need to become involved.
I’ve also made myself join clubs, social groups, and do volunteer work. I’ve joined a couple U of A programs where I find myself not only participating myself, but also helping create safe spaces for my peers. I’ve joined study groups and one of the two minority non-academic cohorts in residence.
Off-campus, but with students that go to the U of A as well, I’ve found interest groups like Dungeons and Dragons campaigns, book clubs, and more. I find that it’s always easier to participate in something that I have a major interest in.
I know this is a lot, especially for those who are introverted. It can be exhausting keeping up friendships and appearances when you weren’t ever built for it, but I feel as if it’s worth it. There is a major importance in making connections and making friends. It helps get your name around for future endeavours, and you’ll always have a friend around when you’re lonely or just wanna hang with someone. You’ll come across people who you thought you would be great friends with, but eventually don’t click with and your lives move on from one another. But, you’ll also come across a selection of people you might work very well with. So, don’t ever find yourself to be discouraged.
During COVID-19, I had to make friends in a way that was comfortable for me and I truly believe an aspect that really calmed my introverted anxieties was that a lot of this was online. Through my online connections, I was able to later arrange in-person gatherings to meet these people on campus — in an environment that is familiar to me. I think for those struggling a lot with making friends on campus, online is the place to start making those connections. Of course, this doesn’t work for everyone, but it’s the way I’ve been able to make a lot of friends on campus this year. However, the true key is to find social groups that focus on what you enjoy.
You need to feel comfortable in a social environment in order to make friends, and if you aren’t comfortable making these groups yourself, joining and finding something that you are interested in is the best way most people have found their forever friends.