How To Make Friends In The Real World* After Graduation. (*You Know, The Real World? That Strange Place That Exists Outside of College?)

by Dan Oshinsky on February 24, 2012

texas map

This post is really for anyone who’s about to graduate college and move to a new city. I don’t recommend graduation, but if you have to do it, and you’re moving to a new place, this post might help.

I graduated college on my 22nd birthday. I didn’t yet have a job. Three days later, I put all my stuff in my car and drove home.

Three weeks later, job in hand, I put all my stuff back in my car and moved to Texas.

I’d never been to Texas before, let alone San Antonio. I didn’t know anyone there, and I was very aware before moving was that making friends was going to be hard. Everyone kept telling me how hard it was going to be. It was always the fourth thing they brought up. Oh, San Antonio! It’s so nice there. Hot, but nice. Great Mexican food. And you’re going to have a tough time making friends.

I knew San Antonio wasn’t like DC. There isn’t much of a public transit system in San Antonio. The city is sprawling, and to get pretty much anywhere, you have to drive.

I figured — correctly, I should say — that picking the right place to live was going to impact the type of friends I’d make. So I decided to move into a loft near downtown, in the old Pearl Brewery. There was a 20-foot high beer can on top of my roof that lit up at night with the words, “Enjoy The Finer Life.” The Riverwalk was a block away from my apartment, and some of the city’s finest restaurants were steps away, and there was a yoga studio on the first floor, and nightly live music across the street, and a farmer’s market in my parking lot every Saturday.

It was a really great place to live. I miss that place.

The only thing was, I didn’t really have many friends.

Certainly not at first. Because as I started to meet people, I discovered two things:

1. Young professionals don’t live in San Antonio. They move to Austin, 45 minutes north.

2. If they do live in San Antonio, they live in the suburbs.

So I made friends in the suburbs. But that was strange. I couldn’t really drink with friends because I had to drive home. And forget about a cab. It would’ve cost $75 round trip just to get to a bar and back.

I like friends, but I wasn’t making nearly enough to be able to afford them, it turned out.

Anyway, where this is all going: I just finished reading a fantastic book by Rachel Bertsche. It’s called “MWF Seeking BFF: My Yearlong Search for a New Best Friend.”┬áIt’s about a writer like me — she even nailed the Jewish-but-not-all-that-religious journalism grad part — who moves to a new city and tries to make new friends. So she goes on 52 friend-dates during the year. She’s not looking for a man — just a new BFF.

And like me, she discovers: This is way, way harder than you’d think.

I’ve moved three times since San Antonio — to Biloxi, Miss., and then back to D.C., and then out to Columbia, Mo. And in each city, I’ve gotten better at making friends. In Biloxi, that meant actually becoming part of the Jewish community. (I was the 10th person in the minion most Friday nights, so they loved me.) In D.C., that meant kickball leagues and yoga and lots of live music. In Columbia, it’s meant infinite after-work drinks and meetups and lots of socialization.

The lesson that Bersche takes away from her friend search — and I’m happy to confirm that she’s dead on with this — is that making new friends in a new city takes work. Sometimes, it feels like a second job.

So if you’re graduating this May and moving to a new city, I’ll offer you this: Don’t feel alone in your new home. Making new friends is hard, and it doesn’t come easily. But don’t be scared. Go out, be friendly, do things, and be active in the friend search.

This comes back to something I’ve said before: In this life, find things you love and people you love, and make time for both. When you’re out in a new city, searching for friends, start by making time for things you love.

You’ll find the people you love soon enough.