Fewer in-person classes, restrictions on social gatherings, and other safety guidelines have made it difficult for students to meet new people and create long-lasting friendships. These guidelines and restrictions are important to protect our health and physical well-being.
However, we want to recognize the importance of finding connection with your Hopkins peers, even when your university experience is virtual or physically distant. Building relationships is critical to your social and emotional well-being and cultivates a sense of belonging and connection to campus.
Making friends during the pandemic may look different but it isn’t impossible! Check out these tips below to meet new people on campus in a COVID-19 safe way.
Join student organizations. Undergraduates can explore Hopkins Groups to discover student organizations; East Baltimore students can browse a similar list on the UHS Social Wellness page. Carey student organizations are available on the school’s website, as are SAIS options. Once you join an organization, make an effort to get to know everyone.
Participate in virtual events. Find virtual events to attend via clubs, or follow academic departments and student organizations on social media. Don’t sleep on the Hub or JHU Wellness calendars either. You may immediately think “No,” because you are tired of Zoom, but virtual events are an opportunity to meet students outside of your classes and student organizations. Attend an event that truly looks interesting to you and when you attend, make sure to engage with others. If anything, virtual events are a great break from your regular schedule!
Find a virtual campus job. A campus jobs where you are connecting and working with other students will help you expand your social circle. Plus making money is always nice! If you already have a job, see if there is anyone you would like to be friends with or learn more about. Start a conversation with a coworker by saying, “Hey! I know we don’t have time at work to chat but I was wondering if you’d like to do a virtual coffee hangout, or a physical distance walk one day after work?” Undergraduates can use the SMILE platform to search for opportunities.
Use opportunities in class. Get to know the students in your classes. Use opportunities in break out rooms, before class starts, or group projects to get to know your peers. Ask other students about their major, interests, or what they are doing this weekend. This may feel awkward at first but breaking the Zoom silence that occurs can lead to interesting conversations with other students. If your classes don’t have group projects or breakout rooms, create a study group that meets outside of class in a COVID-safe way.
Participate in virtual recreation classes. Find a class you like and attend every week; you may start to notice the same students showing up. O’Connor Rec Center at Homewood and the Cooley Center on the East Baltimore campus offer virtual classes that are open to all Hopkins students. Create conversations with other participants or the teacher (and some of the group fitness teachers are students) before class starts. A simple “How is everyone doing?” can be a helpful conversation starter.
Keep in mind that there will be some hiccups when making new friends. It’s normal!
Embrace the awkwardness. Making friends in a virtual setting is different! Acknowledging the awkwardness and/or the difficulty of making friends can help break the ice when striking up a conversation with someone virtually. It can be as simple as “Does anyone else feel it’s hard to make friends right now?” or “Has anyone else had some awkward moments trying to make friends over Zoom?” Being honest about your experience will encourage other honest responses and you may find that other students have experienced the same issues.
Try to overcome your fear of rejection. Whenever talking with someone new, you may have a fear of rejection. Self-doubt, negative self-talk, or feeling awkward can contribute to this fear. Remind yourself that many students are also feeling this way and the only way to find out if someone would want to talk with you is to try! If rejection does occur take a breath and tell yourself it’s okay.
Here are some conversation starters when you’re in a Zoom setting.
Ask about them. Most people enjoy talking about themselves! If you don’t know how to respond, just keep asking them questions. At some point, a natural conversation will occur. Here are some starter questions:
What’s your major?
What’s your favorite class this semester?
Where do you live?
Where are you Zooming from?
What clubs do you belong to?
How are you feeling about virtual learning?
What shows are you currently watching?
Show them your pet. At some point, a cat or dog will walk in front of you or behind you. Introduce the pet and share something interesting about them such as, “This is my cat Max. He always wants to have my attention during class.” Most people like pets and will be excited to see one. Follow up by asking if the other students have pets.
Talk about a recent funny meme or TikTok. Just ask them, “Hey have you seen that funny meme the School of Public Health posted?” This may create a snowball effect about funny things you’ve seen on social media. Getting people laughing is a definite way to get people to like you.
Whatever you choose to try, know that you are one step closer to making friends. Not every question, joke, or event you attend will lead you to a friendship, but it will help you build social skills that will lead to deeper connections.