Making Friends Away from Home

When I first moved to Vancouver, all the way from Texas, to start my undergraduate degree at UBC, I was initially excited, nervous and unsure. Although these feelings dissipated in time, my first year in the city was still a bit of a challenge.

Despite coming from the not-so-far-away United States, Canada still 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.

However, I was delighted by the quickness of Vancouver’s transit, being able to sit on the beach and see mountains, and the thrill of eventually finding other people at UBC that shared my interests.

I’m a person who thrives with a lot of social connection and events, but it took me a long time to build the close friendships that now allow me to get the most out of student clubs, parties, and meet-ups. When I arrived here I knew it would take time to create a new network for myself, but hadn’t realized that I would also miss the support in going to a familiar farmer’s market, or going to a poetry slam like I had back home. In Texas, I was used to having a close group of best friends who were always around to vent to, work on quiet projects with, and go with me to events I was excited about.

I realized that a big part of making Vancouver my home involved putting in the work to meet new people, make friends, and find places and spaces to enjoy my hobbies (and find new hobbies as well).

For me, homesickness, the excitement of moving, and making friends were all interwoven in my first year experience. Navigating my anxiety, new people, my job and my classes was challenging at first, but I learned a few strategies along the way that I hope are as helpful for you as they were for me.

My Strategies

  • Take small steps
    Sometimes I can get overwhelmed if I set big emotional goals like ‘find community’. So instead I try to think about little ways to connect to others that feel good and simple to me. Small steps might look like signing up for a mailing list, joining a meet up for a movie night, or attending an open mic. All I really need to do is show up. If conversation flows, that’s great, if not I 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 involves knitting, meditation, and other ways of spending time with just myself so I can remind myself that I’m already doing a good job.
  • Reminders of long distance friends
    Reflecting on what I find comforting was a great way to ground myself and allow me to start making my dorm room into a homey space. I brought cards and letters from friends, photos of a few my favorite memories, and one or two important books to my dorm to help make me feel safe and comforted. I also set up regular group Skype calls every few weeks.
  • Journalling and writing out goals
    Equally important was reminding myself that learning a new routine, becoming comfortable in a new environment, and making friends all are 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 also a helpful way to remind myself to be patient while also figuring out next steps.

Mostly importantly, whatever emotions you navigate as you build a new home at school at UBC you are not alone. People have been here before, and some want to share their stories and support you.

Making Friends, Finding Your Community

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 for Making Friends

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: