Going away to college was the scariest and most amazing thing I’ve ever done. Originally from Los Angeles, I packed my bags and not-yet-broken-in snow boots and headed to Madison, Wisconsin for my four-year adventure. I remember the shopping trips with my mom as we prepared for Antarctica. I accumulated endless piles of down, fuzzy slippers, and neck warmers (who knew there was such a thing?!).
While I was eager for my new adventure and my first snow, I was nervous about heading to a place where I knew no one. To this day I get asked: why did you go to Wisconsin? My answer is simple: I wanted a new culture, a new city, and new food (cheese curds and brats are a Wisconsin staple).
I wasn’t nervous about making friends. In college you are thrown into social situations with thousands of people your age: classes, Greek life, events, study groups, intramural sports, etc. I quickly found my niche and my way in a sea of 40,000 Sconnies.
After graduation I left for Chicago, my one year of big city life. Chitown is a hub for Big 10 Alumni, and there are an endless amount of opportunities for recent graduates to work hard and party harder. But, whereas on a college campus everyone and everything is at your fingertips, out in the “real world”, making friends and finding your way takes a bit of work.
Graduating soon? Here are some things I’ve done to navigate a new city, and make new friends. Being an adult isn’t so bad. In fact it rocks.
Before you graduate, visit the Alumni Association on campus to learn more about Chapters across the globe. Reach out to the local chapter in your new city to get details on upcoming game watches, volunteer opportunities, and networking events. In Chicago, I remember walking into a Wisconsin Bar with dozens of screaming football fanatics of all ages. It smelled like college (or more specifically, a frat house). Bond with local alumni over beer, football, and life in your new city. Who knows, your tablemate may also be an executive at a big company (networking at its finest).
We’re all about being fit, and staying active post graduation. Whether you are a yogi, runner, cyclist, or barre fanatic, there is a gym out there for you. After the big move, take a few weeks to settle in and drop in for a few classes around town.
Once you’ve found your go-to training spots plan your workouts and stick to the same class time. I was a 5 a.m. regular (I still have no idea how I did it) and after a week or so me and the other crazies were high-fiving and fist-pumping after an intense sweat session. Go up to the other crazies and introduce yourself. Suggest grabbing a coffee post-workout, or meet up for a healthy cocktail. Sweaty friends are the best. On a budget? November Project is a free running and bodyweight workout offered twice a week in 30+ cities. #Justshowup and give some hugs.
Volunteer for a Local Nonprofit
Giving back not only helps the community, it helps you. There are hundreds of nonprofits and volunteer organizations that need assistance or support–not only with your time, but with your leadership and skillset. As a young professional, board positions at a nonprofit are excellent opportunities to grow as a public speaker, networker, and community leader. Choosing groups closely tied to your background and passions is a great way to meet other like-minded volunteers.
Join a Sports Leagues
Stay active all year round by joining a sports league. Dodgeball, running, volleyball, softball, and more—there is no shortage of fun ways to get outside, kick something, or work up a sweat with other 20 somethings in the big city. The Sports Leagues also double as social clubs with happy hours following games. Sweat then sip—my kind of icebreaker.
MeetUps and Networking Groups
Step outside your comfort zone and head to a Meetup or Networking Event. Even more daring, go solo. The list of groups can be overwhelming, so narrow in on something you’re interested in: Nonprofit professionals, Single in my 20s and Loving It, etc. The majority of attendees are in the same boat as you, and looking to meet other people with similar interests.
Moving to a new city is overwhelming in itself, so give yourself some time to settle in and learn your turf. Favorite coffee shop (check), new gym (check), hair dresser (ladies—you know this is important)…check! Ask around, say hi to your neighbors, and start exploring. That social calendar of yours will fill up in no time.
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