This article will be part of a short series where I will discuss different aspects of traveling and relationships.
In fall 2015 I moved to a town just outside of D.C. to pursue a master’s at UMD for two years. I only knew one person in the area. She was a friend from my childhood, and despite my efforts to meet up, she ghosted me. That left me alone in a big city surrounded by people having fun. At first I was hopeful, thinking that I would just meet people on campus. But it turns out that undergrad and grad school are nothing alike. People don’t socialize much. They already have their social life and a job. Maybe also a spouse and kids. Why would they want to hang out with a 22 year-old fresh off the plane from partying a year in Spain? I was too young and too eager.
Actually, maybe I wasn’t the issue. I think the important thing to realize is that,
moving somewhere new, where everyone around you has friends, roommates or loved ones already surrounding them, is hard.
The first two months I spent lying on my living room floor alone on Friday nights crying. I made efforts to hang out with some people, but often times they would be too busy. They had so much going on and I had nothing to do. School only took up about 10 hours of my week, and there were only so many times that I could take Luna hiking alone before I felt like a loser.
I remember that during my first month here I fell violently ill from my period (I’m one of those unlucky girls). I was driving home from taking my car to the shop, and I realized I was going to pass out. It took all of my willpower not to let go of my sight of the road. When I got home, I didn’t know how I would make it up the flight of stairs to my apartment. I somehow did. I started puking all over my bathroom, and felt my consciousness become weaker and weaker. I realized then that I could not afford to pass out. What if I hit my head? Not a SINGLE SOUL would know that I died. No one would know I was hurt or unconscious until it was much later. I had never felt so alone in all my life. I didn’t have any one to call for help. Not one emergency contact.
I sat in bed, eating Cheerios and drinking water, trying to recover from the incident. At this moment, I became resolute on making friends. I thought to myself, I’m a likable person. I just need to force my presence on people until they realize they like me and start asking me to hang out. This might sound aggressive to everyone out there reading this, and I guess it sort of is. But this is how you make friends in a town full of people who already have friends!
To remedy the situation, I tried by first increasing my involvement. I went to a grad school event organized by UMD. If you
know me, then you know I absolutely HATE school events. But sometimes you have to do something that feels lame to put yourself out there. I went up to a girl after the event and confidently asked for her number. We had talked a bit in the group, and I decided I wanted to specifically target her as one of my friends. It worked!
Next, I got a job so that my free time was drastically reduced (and to pay rent of course). Here I was able to make a bunch of new friends, and I started to feel like myself again. Come Christmas time, I threw a party. I wanted people from my school to mingle more, with the hopes that we could all be good friends. This worked like a charm. I was able to see people outside of the academic setting, meet their husbands and see them have a drink and relax. They saw my very humble abode, and we all laughed.
One of the biggest reasons I was able to get close to people was because I showed them I liked them and was persistent. Everyone wants to be liked. If you are a friendly person and actually care about what the other person is saying, this genuineness will win most people over. But being genuine is not enough.
You won’t become special to someone until you’ve spent quality time with them. This day and age, everyone is so busy, so time is the hardest thing to get out of people. The only way you can do this is by being persistent.
Ask them to hang out every weekend. They might say they’re busy 4/5 times, but on that fifth time you will get together and they will see how great of a person you really are.
Another important factor to consider is co-experiencing challenges. Nothing bonds two people more than talking about personal issues. Maybe you both want to complain about class together? Maybe your friend’s parent died? Maybe your friend just ended a longterm relationship? These are things you need to be extremely supportive of. Be that person they can talk to. Go out of your way to do something nice for them during their time of need, and this will bring you closer.
Most of all, remember that making friends in a new place just takes time. I know it’s hard, but don’t become discouraged. The right people will always come along.