After graduating from Indiana University in Bloomington — which is also her hometown — Samantha Stutsman headed southwest to Dallas, Texas. She left behind her closest friends and family in pursuit of a career. A year later she’s found herself in Los Angeles, starting over once again, and knowing no one. Here’s how she’s learned to revive her social life and make new friends in a new city.
Making friends has always come easily to me. In kindergarten it was as simple as “do you want to be my best friend?” and I’d be braiding hair and sharing secrets with another five-year-old girl. In high school I had so many friends from various extracurriculars that I rarely had a spare moment to myself. Once in college, I realized that I needed to make a large campus feel smaller, so I joined a sorority. I instantly gained 150 new friends.
My social life skyrocketed thanks to a mandatory calendar of events and a group of girls who hated staying in on a Saturday night. But I’d soon feel the effects of graduating, leaving behind the institution that always made it possible for me to easily make friends. By January 2016, less than two years after graduating, my social life was nonexistent.
Being the new kid in town
I’d never lived anywhere but Bloomington before moving to Dallas. I was not only leaving home for the first time, but my closest friend was four hours south in Austin. I spent my first few weekends in my new apartment, alone, cabin fever setting in after just two days. As adventurous as I’d been in high school and college, I couldn’t muster up the bravery to explore the city on my own. I realized quickly that I had to find outlets for making friends. Here are my top three suggestions
1. Seek out work friends
My co-workers at the marketing agency where I worked were all fairly young, and I’d taken note that they all seemed to be major foodies. I prompted happy hours and tagged along to any and every lunch outing. Almost everyone in the office was local, and I was introduced to some of the greatest restaurants in the city. We had many company-sponsored dinners, and I was able to taste my way through Dallas on an intern’s budget — and make social connections at the same time.
2. Venture out in your neighborhood
Once I’d established relationships at work, I still had nights and weekends to worry about. So, I joined a gym — a small neighborhood gym where everybody knew my name. I’d found my own version of Cheers. I was not only getting into shape, but I found myself sharing my life with the women in my fitness classes — you tend to bond under the stresses of physical pain.
“As adventurous as I’d been in high school and college, I couldn’t muster up the bravery to explore the city on my own. I realized quickly that I had to find outlets for making friends.”Tweet
3. Get online
Attending such a large university ended up paying off when it came to making friends in a new town. I was able to connect with IU alumni who lived in the area by using Facebook groups that other IU alumni had created — there is one for every city imaginable. I spent time with sorority sisters that I’d never met, and I went on blind outings with friends of friends who thought we might get along. Outside of my alumni social networking groups, I also used apps like Meetup to play pick-up games of volleyball, go hiking, and even see concerts.
Another year has started and I’m in a new city once again — friendless and navigating the unfamiliar streets of LA. I haven’t found anyone to braid my hair or share secrets with, but I’m out speed-friending whenever and wherever I can. I’m taking the best advice I can offer — tap into your networks, utilize your hobbies, and simply say “yes” to new experiences.