How to Make Friends (When You Don’t Live on Campus)

img_4865  By: Andrew D. Jankowski

Coming back to school at age 27 was weird beyond the on-paper age difference. Even though I no longer live in what some of us, to varying degrees of affection, call “the PSU fishbowl,” I still enjoy meeting people, making connections, and growing friendships. It was easy when I lived in a dorm (ahem, residence hall). My best friend from high school was my roommate, and I made friends with my neighbors on my floor, then later other floors. (I’ll cry if and when Ondine Hall ever goes on to meet the Great Real Estate Development Firm in the Sky.)

But how do you make friends when your classmates live in other neighborhoods, towns, or even states? (I see you, Vancouver commuters!)

Talk (Effectively) with Your Classmates

Effective communication is vital to the success of any major. I’ve found small class settings are more amenable to group discussions, where it’s easier to get to know students and the instructor(s) on a personal level. In lecture settings, I’ve usually tried to sit somewhere regularly and speak to the people around me, or get to know people with unique insight who can also Let the Professor Teach – rare birds indeed. Group projects are good for forced interaction, but can be a pain. As the meme goes: “When I die, I want to be buried by my group project partners so I can be let down one more time.”

Actively Listen to Your Instructors

Actively listening to professors is a great way to learn about career opportunities and subjects relevant to your field that aren’t 100 percent related to the course. It’s not going to happen with each and every class, but there will be professors or instructors who will be formative to your career and life. I’ve found some amazing writers, artists and filmmakers, and their work, as a result of my instructors’ recommendations.

Socialize Outside the Classroom

Finally, going to campus events is a great way to learn about outside events. Musicians that you hear in the cafe in the Smith Union, for example, might be playing a venue near your home later in the week, or an artist you see on campus might be showing in a professional gallery or even the Portland Art Museum.

Make friends, or don’t. I went back to school thinking I didn’t need to make friends. But networking is where much of your college education gets its value. You have a limited time to interact with 20,000+ people. Make the most of it.

(photo: Andrew D. Jankowski)

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