College can be one of the most exciting times of students’ lives and the friendships forged over studying and living together will often last a lifetime. The connections you make with peers and mentors through these next few years have the potential to propel your career path and life. In today’s world of social isolation and with many institutions opting for online learning as opposed to physical classes many students are starting their school year with a sense of isolation and uncertainty about the value they will be able to harness from the upcoming semesters.
As someone who has been an online student since before it became the norm, I want to offer some of the tips I have employed through the years to make friends and find peers while seating behind a computer screen all day.
Tips for making friends and finding peers while studying online:
Be open to new friendships:
This may sound redundant, but you cannot make friends if you don’t want to. Be approachable, be helpful, and be kind. Also, never be afraid to set your own boundaries for what you want in a friendship.
If your university offers a discussion board, introduce yourself and make it known that you are open to new connections. A great way to do this is by sharing interests, classes you have taken or are currently taking, and openly say you are looking for peers, study buddies or, in the social spaces, friends. I met one of my closest peers by stating I was willing to share my notes from a past class (beware of academic dishonesty, though).
Join social spaces:
We are social animals, we thrive in communities and that includes those of us who “hate people”. Find out about your school’s social clubs and opportunities that may be carried virtually. For me, a Discord Community for Biologists offered both the much-needed peer support and social outlet for when you finish work. Are you not into biology? There must be a community out there for you. Don’t be afraid to think outside the box!
Don’t be afraid to reach out!
I always review the roster in the courses I am taking to see if there are any students who have been following the same path as me. There usually are, but I am to shy to reach out! I received an email not long ago from a peer who recognized my name from previous classes and we have been carrying out a wonderful peer relationship ever since.
It is not about diving into the deep, but getting your toes wet
It can be all too easy to go into a complete isolation while doing school online. Nonetheless, you don’t have to join all the clubs or spam social sites and you don’t have to pretend to be something you are not because burn-out is real. Sometimes you just have to take a step forward and start small with one thing that is out of your comfort zone.
This list is not extensive, but each item has helped me at a time or another. Please remember that meeting strangers through the internet always comes with its potential dangers, and safety should be first in every encounter you conduct.
Walking with a friend in the dark is better than walking alone in the lightHellen Keller
This post was originally published here!