Making friends online
July 23, 2020
4 mins read

How to make friends online in your first year

Making friends online might feel difficult to navigate—especially when considering how new this manner of reaching out and getting to know others can be.

However, many students are likely feeling the exact same way. Really. We are all dealing with this new way of creating meaningful connections with one another while being separated by 2 screens and who knows how much distance. 

So, as you embark on the search to find your peeps and create a support system, here are some ways to start connecting with your classmates and the wider UBC community!

Making friends through Collegia

UBC is offering 2 new online Collegia starting this fall. The program is free to join and is designed to help you make connections and socialize with other students! These Collegia are:

1. Virtual UBC Collegia

You’ll get to meet fellow first years, chat with upper-year students (your Orientation & Transition Leaders, or OTLs) in majors you're considering, and meet faculty members to get their exclusive advice. You'll also have the opportunity to attend events and panels hosted by OTLs, student clubs, and/or other campus groups on a variety of topics, such as ways to get involved and how to build your academic skills.

2. Virtual Indigenous Students’ Collegium (ISC)

If you’re an Indigenous student, consider joining the ISC to connect with undergrads and grad students with Indigenous backgrounds—while also having the opportunity to join Virtual UBC Collegia! 

Register for Collegia by Sunday, August 30 to be part of an online community when school kicks off! If you can’t make this deadline, you can still join on a rolling basis. But you don’t want to be late to the party, right? 

Got questions? Email UBC Collegia today!

Making friends during class

If your schedule allows, try to attend class live. This way, you get to interact with your classmates and instructors through the chat box on tools like Collaborate Ultra or Zoom (depending on what tech your class uses). Add to your classmates’ points—or express how you also have the same questions—to help create a sense of solidarity.

Make yourself visible to your classmates by staying responsive. Your activity in online classes can help your classmates become more familiar with who you are. Do make sure to keep your tone respectful and use simple language so you come across as approachable.

Although you may feel awkward about reaching out, it’s character-strengthening and skin-toughening to mow over your comfort zone and get in touch with your classmates by:

  • Sending DMs through Canvas (via the Inbox—here's a quick guide!)
  • Joining Canvas groups (if your course offers this option)
  • Messaging over social media

You can also find excellent study buddy candidates by reaching out to students who:

  • Ask questions you find valuable
  • Go to office hours a lot—like, all the time, every time (you’ll know who they are, wink)
  • Clearly put a lot of thought into their responses on class discussion forums

Of course, you may also find great friends in group project members you're assigned to work with—serendipity for the win!

Making friends over social media/forums

Messenger group chats, Facebook groups, and Discord servers for your specific class may have already been created! See which one works best for you and if they are helpful to you in making connections.

In a broader context, staying engaged over social media—by participating in Class of 2024 groups, for example—can help you find people you might connect with. Reaching out can feel a little nerve-wracking, and it certainly does take practice to soothe your jitteriness (until it purrs tamely ~).

But getting to know your fellow UBC students now would mean that when you get to meet in person, you’ll already know so much about one another! It’ll be like meeting old friends.

Quite frankly, most of the friends I’ve made online were through r/UBC. Although Reddit’s not the same as Facebook groups, the sentiment is there: You reach out or get reached out to, and you invest in a new connection with authenticity and candour. Often, you may see threads talking about how an exam went down for a specific class, and hey, that’s a great way to make those connections!

Pro tip: Reach out to Reddit users who’ve flaired themselves with the majors you may be considering applying to. I’ve actually made friends with a few incoming first years interested in the Forensic Science program!

Making friends at virtual campus happenings

Making friends seldom happens only in the classroom. UBC is home to many different clubs, undergraduate societies, and student associations and organizations.

This year, many clubs and organizations will hold virtual events that you can drop by—so start by visiting the diverse array of club booths on Imagine UBC! And definitely take a look through AMS CampusBase—the new clubs platform at UBC—to see which communities you'd like to join!

Seek out a group whose values speak to you, and try to commit to it. Although club activities may all be virtual, forming connections with your fellow first years as well as upper-year students can really weave around you a strong web of support systems.

With these new connections, see if your friends would be comfortable with exploring video calling (and other social media channels) to stay connected. With a bit of determination and confidence, you won’t have to lose out on the opportunity to make friends at university, as the way we make friends now is pretty much the same for (almost) all of us. 

We’re online and physically apart, yeah—but we can frame this reality as a rich learning experience in the realm of social skills!