Make Friends from Scratch

What do you do when you move to a city and you don’t know anybody? If you find a job in an unfamiliar city, or an internship opportunity takes you halfway across the country? In addition to the turmoil of moving and finding your feet in a new workplace, you have to figure out your social life as well. It’s not an easy situation, but with some conscious effort, you can carve out a niche.

While at Olin, I moved to cities where I knew at most one person on three occasions. In the last two years, I’ve done it four more times: spending six months in California, England, China and France. I’ve gotten pretty good at speeding past the lonely days, skipping to the fun part where I’m integrated into local communities. It’s not always straightforward, so I want to share with you the methods I use. Maybe they’ll help you settle into your new home a bit faster this summer/after graduation.

When you move somewhere, think intentionally about how you want to spend your time, and with whom. This is your opportunity to create the life you want to lead. Investing in new friends is worth the effort even if you only stay for a few months. You’re moving, not dying. You can build a worldwide friend network. Who knows when your paths will cross again?

The first step is to feel comfortable on your own in your new environment. You have to get out of the house. Go for a walk in your local area. Visit a nearby neighborhood. Drop by that cool café, bookstore, arcade, market, gallery – whatever. If you’re going to lounge around all day, at least do it in a park. Read up on upcoming events. Sniff out the happening spots. Become knowledgeable about the place where you live. Act like the locals until you area local.

Note: Having just one or two friends at the start can be risky. Make sure that you push each other to be your best selves, rather than settling for spending your time closed in on yourselves.

Also, remember this: you are an interesting person. You’re worth knowing. If you met you at a party, you’d both have a great evening. Be confident in this, so you can make the most of your social opportunities.

Step 2: meet people. Social media sites like Meetup and Couchsurfing are the easiest approach, providing instant connection with low barriers to entry – the people on these sites are there because they are open to making new friends. Use these websites to find people and events in your area. Try online dating sites and apps – even if you aren’t looking for romance. Anyone using these services wants to make new connections.

Leverage your networks. Meet friends of friends back home. Get to know a “connector” – someone who seems to know everyone – and befriend the people they introduce you to. Follow up with everyone – it doesn’t matter how you met someone, if you get along well with them!

The technique I’ve had the most success with is to pick a social activity and stick with it. Find a group of people that does a thing you enjoy, or a thing you’d like to try) and just show up. At first, you’ll see each other once or twice a week and you’ll bond around the sport or game or event that you share. Soon you’ll start to recognize the regulars. Then you’ll be a regular too! Bam: you’re a part of the community.

This is a great start, but the real impact comes with step 3, when you start to drive your social circles.

Would you love for your new friends, colleagues and acquaintances to invite you to go to a concert or waterskiing or road tripping? It’s a symmetrical argument: they could be waiting for you. Don’t wait for them to reach out.Somebody has got to do the organizing. You’re the one with the most to gain, and nothing to lose… So it’ll have to be you.

Invite the people whose company you enjoy to do something besides the activity you have in common. Start low-key: propose a group meal or drink before or after your thing. Hit them up for a parallel activity, or even something completely unrelated. Leverage your research about upcoming events around town. You’ll be the one with the plan and with local knowledge, and people will come to you. Soon you can do all the things you want to do in your new city, and with new friends!

Invite friends from different social circles, or individuals you’ve met to join activities with other groups. I personally find great satisfaction in blending friend groups. And you multiply the value that you generate. Your friends will want to return it to you. The effort you invest will pay itself back in kind, and people will invite you to their activities as well.

This all may sound very mechanical and forced – but I think of it as self-aware and deliberate. Yes, be analytic while planning a life for yourself. But be authentic while you live it. Choose the relationships you want to foster, then be yourself and allow them to develop.

Celebrate every success. I try to do something worthwhile every day. Then, I write it on a slip of paper and fill up a jar over the course of a few months. Don’t compare yourself to others. If you’re proud of something, it’s a success! Write it down and put it in the jar. Challenge yourself to keep things interesting. Even if you have habits, find the uniqueness in each day’s activities or encounters.

The world is rich with social opportunities. I hope you can find ones that make you happy in your new home.

Building the Olin Memory

The student body at Olin College has the institutional memory of a goldfish. For a college of just over 10 years old, we have forgotten a remarkable amount. Each graduating senior takes their knowledge and experience, and leaves behind a person-shaped hole in Olin’s collective memory. Club leaders take with them memories of successful past events. Project managers abscond with a litany of common pitfalls, and how to avoid them. Champions of a cause leave nothing but archeological evidence of their efforts, to be pieced together by their inheritors in years to come.

We lose track of club materials from year to year. Every successive student government struggles to interpret the last year’s constitution. Successive generations of Oliners have reinvented the proverbial wheel time and time again. If you’re curious, delve into some of the older folders on public (there’s one benefit to not cleaning out old files) or ask an alum about some of the things they used to do. The challenges we overcome and the successes we achieve are often celebrated and promptly forgotten.

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Run for a Leadership Position

CORe, Honor Board and SERV are all having elections for important leadership roles, and you should run for a position! Step up and have a say in directing Olin next year. Help to shape the student experience and continue to improve Olin! Come to open “office hours” on Wednesday, April 2nd at lunch to talk with current leaders about why they love their positions and why you should run. If you’re at all interested in a position, talk to us, learn what the role would entail and RUN!

While they may sound daunting, all these positions are all extremely rewarding, and only take a couple of hours of work per week. Every student who holds a leadership role in these various organizations is proud of the direct impact his or her actions and opinions have on the Olin community.

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Time to Find a Successor

There comes a time when every president, director, CEO and dictator for life must cede his or her title to a successor (okay, maybe not dictators for life). If you run a student group now, but you won’t in the fall, now is a perfect time to start think ing about next year’s leadership! Ensure the continuity of your group: appoint, elect, or train a successor.

If this school year ends and your club has no certain direction, your community and vision may have trouble finding its feet next year, or may not even exist at all. Ensure next year’s leadership so you can hit the ground running in the fall.

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Why the StudentEvents List?

Clubs, organizations, CORe, SERV, Honor Board, faculty, staff, student groups, and individuals are organizing events for your entertainment. All sorts of events, activities, and fun meetings happen every week on campus. Don’t miss out!

How can you keep track of these various happenings on campus? SAC has you covered. Check out the events calendar at for an up-to-date calendar of events, including recurring club events and big ticket SAC, club and organization events, as well as other interesting activities. To submit your club’s event, email with an ical, and your event will quickly be added to the calendar. I recommend downloading the calendar to your Outlook. Click “Add calendar to Outlook” in the top right of the page, and follow the instructions. Then toggle this calendar on and off within your personal calendar.

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Your Idea Here: Build Olin

By now, you’ve probably heard about Build Day. Maybe you’ve even been to a Pow-Wow ideation session. You can’t have missed the Big Bang, and maybe you joined a team. But maybe you aren’t quite sure what Build Day is, or how and why you should get involved leading up to May 3rd. In any case, strap yourself in and get ready for a thrilling exposé on the hottest thing since thermodynamics: Build Day!

Build Day, on May 3rd, is the culmination of a number of community-oriented semester-long projects. May 3rd has been reserved by the administration for the entire Olin community to work together on awesome projects: developed and implemented by teams of Olin students, faculty, and staff that will have a meaningful and lasting impact on our College.

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Take a Leave of Absence

In July, my internship in Mumbai wrapped up and I spent the next three and a half months touring India. By mid November, I was in Nepal. For Christmas, I joined my family in Peru, followed by a trek through Argentina, Chile, and Ecuador. At the time of writing, I am staying over in Olin while my visa for China processes, and by publishing time I’ll be in Shanghai to live, work and learn Mandarin.

Olin allows–no, encourages–its students to take time away from school. Your scholarship is valid for eight semesters in five years. That’s an implicit invitation that many students ignore, but that is a mistake. Taking a leave of absence makes you a better, more rounded person, makes you appreciate what you have here at Olin, and opens your eyes to a world of new experiences.

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