Jeryl D. Concepcion, M.A.
August 9, 2018
I have been in the Student Affairs field for about eight years. For the first few years, I was fortunate to maintain the same social circles throughout graduate school that I did for the latter portion of my undergraduate years.
It was not until after graduate school that I found a new professional role out-of-state, which required me to not only move away from just about everything/everyone that I knew and loved, but to also establish a new part of my life elsewhere. Creating a new social life was especially daunting, but I figured that it was completely doable.
Fast forward a few months, and I realized making new friends proved to be tougher than I thought. Not only is it hard to somehow make new friends in a new area, but it is especially hard when you relocate to a town filled to the brim with students who attend the university at which you work – many of whom are students you come into contact with frequently!
That is not to say that I could not become friends with students. But, I have always been encouraged to be mindful of any relational power dynamics that could exist, to recognize my own positionality as a Student Affairs Professional, and to stay aware of how others can perceive these relationships.
The process of forging new relationships in a new area – especially when it is filled with plenty of college students – can be somewhat tough and isolating. In fact, here I am again: in another new state, in another city filled with many students, trying to make some new friends!
So, in the spirit of sharing some of what I have experienced, and after talking with many mentors and colleagues, as well as reading plenty of tips online, here are some strategies that I have found to be successful for myself:
Meetup.com is a free website geared at helping people meet others who share similar interests, beliefs, careers, and ideas. Largely, the website is extremely popular for people who have relocated to a new city/area!
It is pretty simple: you sign up for the website using an email address, select as many interests/groups that you seem to be interested in, and then receive a bunch of updates about upcoming events to which you are automatically invited!
In my opinion, one of the best parts about this site is that you are not entirely alone with these meetups, and that many other attendees are in similar boats. And, even if you feel a bit shy or nervous, or experience some level of social anxiety, you can always message other attendees ahead of time to introduce yourself beforehand!
I will be the first to admit that I am not at all athletically inclined, and I definitely will not pretend like I am physically fit. But, many cities have local recreational sports teams, largely for adults to socialize and meet others. In some cases, community recreation is part of some smaller cities’ Parks, Recreation, and Tourism administrative office. But, in many other cases, you can find recreational kickball, softball, indoor soccer, volleyball, and other teams through organizations like Xoso, WAKA, Underdog, and so forth. Use a search engine to search for terms like “adult sports leagues” and “sport and social club.”
A nice part of many of these clubs/organizations is that you can sign up as an “individual,” and you will likely be placed with other “individuals” to ultimately form your own team. That means you will more frequently be placed on a team with others who were also looking to make friends, and did not know others beforehand!
For me, this tends to be my favorite. I been practicing yoga regularly for the past year and a half, and many of the classes I attend frequently have “regular” attendees. Sometimes, it is just simply a bit easier to say “Hello!” or strike up a conversation with someone I have seen at multiple classes. And, if all else fails, the fitness class instructor is usually awesome to get to know.
For me, I have been reminded multiple times that there may be many other new professionals and grad students on my campus who are in similar positions experiencing similar life changes. And, if not, it is still okay to tap into my campus network of professionals.
It might take a bit of work to identify who some of these people might be. So, often times, I like to just send an “introduction” email to other SA pros and grad students, sharing more about who I am, and if time permits, proposing to meet some time soon, to discuss tools, tips, and tricks to navigating a new campus or new neighborhood!
Many people are receptive to sharing ideas and tips with newer folks on campus. And, in having sought this out myself previously, I have definitely made some great friends!
Remember to check in with those who have helped support you along the way! It is easy to feel lonely and isolated in a new environment, and sometimes it was just really important to stay connected with those who helped me get to where I am.
It is definitely easier said than done, especially when trying to learn a new job function, university/college system, and neighborhood/town/city. So, I made it a point to schedule FaceTime, Google Hangouts, and phone dates with certain loved ones.
At the end of the day, remember that you are not alone in feeling however you might feel. Many new professionals and graduate students feel and experience similar sentiments and situations, and that is simply okay!
If you are reading this, my hope is that you are transitioning well into your new roles, new cities, and new chapters well. And, if none of those things apply to you, I hope you have a wonderful transition into a new academic year!
Stay tuned for Region V’s New Professional and Graduate Students KC webinar in the coming month, where panelists (including myself!) will share more about their experiences with these types of life transitions!
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