Making friends away from home
When I first moved to Vancouver to start my undergraduate degree at UBC, I was excited, nervous, and unsure.
Despite coming from not-so-far-away Texas, being in a new country and culture took time to get used to. I missed my friends from home, I missed knowing where to grab food that would comfort me, and I missed big thunderstorms instead of Vancouver’s rainy drizzle.
I’m a person who thrives with a lot of social connection. In Texas, I was used to having a close group of friends who I could vent to, work with on projects, and have beside me at events. When I arrived here, I knew it would take time to build a new network, but I missed the support system I had back home.
I realized that a big part of making Vancouver my home would involve putting in work to meet new people, make friends, and find spaces where I could enjoy my hobbies (and find new hobbies).
For me, homesickness, the excitement of moving, and making friends were all interwoven in my first-year experience. Navigating my anxiety, the new people around me, my job, and my classes was challenging at first, but I learned a few strategies along the way. I hope they’re as helpful for you as they were for me:
Take small steps
Sometimes I get overwhelmed if I set big emotional goals for myself like ‘find community.’ Instead, I try to think about little ways to connect to others that feel relatively easy.
For me, small steps might look like signing up for a mailing list, joining a meetup group, or attending an open mic. All you really need to do is show up. If conversation flows, that’s great. If not, you can still have fun just by getting out and doing something.
Practice self care
Taking risks and reaching out to others in residence, in classes, or elsewhere can feel really intense. That’s why it’s so important to remember to take care of yourself and find a bit of balance. My own self-care routine includes knitting, meditating, and other ways of spending time by myself.
Remind yourself of close friends
Comforting thoughts of home helped to ground me during first year. Plus, they helped make my dorm room into a homey space. I decorated my room with cards and letters from friends, photos of a few of my favourite memories, and one or two important books to help me feel safe and comforted. I also set up regular Skype calls with people back home.
Journal and write out your goals
Equally important was reminding myself that learning a new routine, becoming comfortable in a new environment, and making friends are all processes that take time. For me, a big part of this was thinking about what specific things make me feel connected to community and new friends. Writing out goals, strategies, and worries was a helpful way to remind myself to be patient while I was figuring out my next steps.
Whatever emotions you navigate as you construct your new home at UBC, remember you are not alone.
Five years after my first Imagine Day, I live with an amazing group of friends in a shared house, am involved with various community spaces in the city, and still take time to journal and write by myself.
Over the years, my community and friendships have grown and deepened, and it all started with attending a few club events here and there, and volunteering with different groups in my second year as my friends from Texas supported me from afar.
Some resources to help you connect
There are a ton of ways to get involved, meet new people, and feel comfortable in a new environment. Here are a couple of resources I recommend:
● This Campus Life page on students.ubc.ca has a lot of ideas for ways to connect with others.
● The main way I met people when I first got here was through different AMS Clubs. The great thing about AMS Clubs is that there are so many to choose from!
● If you’re feeling homesick or lonely, try the resources on the bottom of this Self-help page for a bit of support.