So you’ve landed that dream internship, assembled the office-appropriate wardrobe, and signed the summer-long lease on the least expensive and least roach-infested apartment the city has to offer. There’s just one problem: you’re all alone. For many college women, following the ideal career path entails taking summer jobs or internships in places you’ve never been to, surrounded by people you don’t know. When confronted with this dilemma, I did what any smart gal would do—I called my mom. Not surprisingly, she had some truly sage advice. So if you’re one of those nervous collegiettes, just read on—HC and my mother are here with a five-step guide to making friends and getting comfortable wherever you might be living this summer.
Step One: Maybe you do know people!
The first thing to do, Mom told me, is to check in with relatives. “You might have a third cousin in the area that you never knew about!” she said. Even if your relatives aren’t your age—and not quite prepared to show you to the area’s hottest new dance club—you’ll at least get a nice city tour out of it, and maybe even a good home-cooked meal.
Mom also suggested asking friends whether they know people who will be in your city for the summer. Erin Mealey, who writes Smitten, Glamour Magazine’s Daily Sex & Relationship Blog, updates this suggestion for the 21st century—she recommends asking friends to introduce you to others over Facebook. “When I moved…to San Diego,” she writes, “my friends living in other cities e-introduced to their girl friends in San Diego via Facebook.” Have your friend send her buddy a message with your details—your name, what you like to do, maybe a fun fact—and get to friending. If you’re getting along online, arrange a meet-up—it can be as simple as just grabbing coffee.
Step Two: Make Use of Colleges or Universities
If you’re lucky enough to land close to a college or university, make use of their resources. “Hang out at…what do you call them? Student unions?” my not-so-fresh-out-of-college mother suggested. If there’s a lecture or concert going on, show up and strike up a conversation with whoever’s sitting next to you.
Also, make sure to check whether your university runs programs in the area. Many schools create lecture series or organize tours of local tourist attractions for students interning in big cities like New York or Washington, D.C. Others operate mentoring programs, and can match you up to an alumnus who would be willing to show you around the city, or even introduce you to her friends. Check out your school’s Career Services page to see if those kinds of opportunities are available.
Step Three: Follow Your Interests
Love to knit? Talk about books? Listen to accordion music? Pick up a local newspaper and see what catches your eye. And though my Luddite mother would never do this, take to the internet: websites like Meetup prompt you to enter your hobby and ZIP code, and direct you towards groups devoted to what you’re interested in. Stuck in Indianapolis, Indiana and missing your weekly pole dancing class? The city’s “Pole Dance for Fitness” group is 100 members strong.
Are you involved with something you love at school? Spend the whole summer missing your sorority, your prayer group, or your university’s chapter of the ACLU? Check to see if your favorite campus organizations are national, and network through their umbrella websites. You might be able to find people with similar interests, who actually participate in the small extracurricular activities that you do.
Volunteering is another great way to meet people while doing something you love. VolunteerMatch and the government-operated Corporation for National & Community Service’s website are great places to start looking for the volunteering opportunity that’s right for you.
Step Four: Say “Yes”
Mom had some more general advice: say “yes” to every opportunity that comes your way. It might be the end of a long workday, and your coworker might smell a little funny, but if he tells you that the whole office is going out for drinks and that you’re invited to come along, go for it. At the very least, you’ll quietly sit in the corner and learn never to associate with these people again. But there’s a much higher likelihood that you’ll meet a few people and get into a few good conversations. Carleton College junior Elena Levi recommends smiling. “It’s really hard to work up the courage to introduce yourself,” she says, “but if you just smile and tell someone your name, it usually works out.” You might even make a friend you can stick with all summer long.
Step Five: Be Bold
My mom thinks this one’s probably the most important: if you see something that interests you, or meet someone you like, don’t be shy. Going to that first meet-up might be scary, and asking that really funny girl for her email might feel a little weird (and somehow, just as daunting as asking a guy out on a date), but it might make an otherwise lonely summer into a life-changing one. My Mom had one last piece of advice—when arranging a future rendezvous with a potential new friend, or group of friends, be specific. “Don’t say ‘I’ll meet you for coffee for sometime,’” she suggested. “Say: ‘I’m on my lunch break at twelve tomorrow. Let’s meet for coffee at the Starbucks at the corner of Broadway and Main Street.” That way, your new friend won’t fall by the wayside.
New situations are always a little terrifying, and living in a new city for the summer is no exception. And we’ve learned in college that things are especially difficult without our Moms to rub our backs at the end of a hard day, or cook us our favorite meals. But with a bit of effort and persistence, you’ll feel like a local—and maybe not a homesick one—in no time.
Smitten: The Daily Sex and Relationships Magazine at Glamour Magazine[glamour.com]
Elena Levi, junior at Carleton College
The writer’s mom