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As we navigate the world of change and opportunity in school, camaraderie can serve as the backbone of our experiences. Friends can make us feel happier, healthier, and more supported in our academic and career goals—but how do we break past “acquaintance” status and get a bit closer?

Classroom Companions

Classes are great places to meet new people with similar interests. A simple “What did you think of the reading?” can easily spark a conversation.

Chatting for just a few minutes before or after class can add up to quite a bit of time spent socializing by the end of a semester. It’s also an easy segue into getting together outside of school. “Making small talk helps to build a bridge. As you chat about papers or homework, you can see if you get along with the person,” says Becki H., a graduate student at Fitchburg State University in Massachusetts.

Getting together after class can encourage the natural progression from acquaintances to friends. Ask study partners to grab a bite to eat after comparing notes.

More conversation starters

Conversation-Starter Tool
Ask a question about the situation you’re both in.

Example
“What interested you most about this program?”
“Do you know anyone else whose children attend this school?”

Conversation-Starter Tool
Make a comment about the other person.

Example
“I see you have the new iPad. How do you like it?”
“You’re in a lot of my classes! What’s your major?”

Conversation-Starter Tool
Ask for a simple favor.

Example
“Do you have an extra pen I could borrow?”
“Would you like to exchange emails so we can compare notes?”

Conversation-Starter Tool
Ask about the other person’s interests or preferences.

Example
“What do you think about the reading from last week?”
“What kind of music are you into?”

Conversation-Starter Tool
Connect and share opinions.

Example
“I liked that article too! I’m a big fan of the author’s work.”
“I haven’t heard this band before but they sound great. Can you suggest others that are similar?”

Conversation-Starter Tool
Make plans to follow up.

Example
“I’ll let you know what I think when I check out that band!”
“Let me know how your test goes tomorrow.” 

Attending classes online? Take advantage of message boards and connect virtually. Sherry H., a student taking online courses at Ashford University, says, “I connect with people outside of the ‘classroom’ through social networking.”

Succeeding at Social Gatherings

Department get-togethers, lectures, or events in your community can be a great opportunity to mingle with people you don’t normally connect with on a day-to-day basis. Though it may feel intimidating to approach someone you don’t know, others are likely feeling the same way. Tabatha Miller, a counselor at Central Penn College in Summerdale, Pennsylvania, says, “Don’t let concern prevent a possible good connection!”

Showing that you’re interested and engaged in another person’s experiences is one way to make a great first impression. It also opens up the opportunity to expand on what the person says and form a conversation around something that you know he or she likes.

Tips on recognizing what you have to offer a frienship

You’re a Conversation Piece

Sharing your interests and values is a critical part of building relationships. But sometimes people lose touch with their unique qualities or feel sheepish about sharing them. Become aware of what you have to offer by asking yourself the questions below:

  1. What’s a unique skill I possess that others would never guess I have?
  2. What motivates me to succeed?
  3. What’s my favorite thing to do in my spare time? 
  4. What made me choose my college or major?  
  5. What do I want to do after graduation? 
  6. What are some accomplishments that I’m proud of?
  7. What’s something interesting about my family or where I come from?

One way to explore these is to strike up a conversation about them with some friends. This serves a dual purpose: You’ll learn about them and also yourself.

Getting Beyond “What’s Up?”

So you’ve made a connection with someone. Now what? Instead of leaving things at a Facebook friend request, or another chance meeting, consider using what you learn to continue the conversation.

“I try to relate to people and what interests them,” shares Cara M., a student taking online courses at Empire State College, The State University of New York in Saratoga Springs.

Michael Russell, the district director of wellness centers at City Colleges of Chicago in Illinois, stresses the importance of friendship for both academic support and stress relief. He says, “Consider friendship building as important ‘me time.’ It’s an effective way to lead a more balanced life and a means for getting support, relieving stress, and having fun!”

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