In a typical year, new students might expect they’ll make friends in the traditional ways — maybe you’ll bond with a fellow volleyball fan at the season’s first Heat game or exchange notes with the student sitting next to you in first-year English.
But without relying on these traditional in-person experiences, many new students were concerned how they would make friends this year.
First-year students Breanna Krahn, Paige Reekie, and Kylie Johnston were no exception, but when their virtual paths crossed during orientation, they knew they’d found a friendship that would overcome the challenges of their online environment.
How did the three of you meet?
Paige: During Jump Start all three of us were all placed in a break-out room together and we had a blast. We decided to form a study group together and the rest is history.
Bree: Our friendship really took off when we got each other’s contact information and then reached out to study together. As Paige mentioned, we committed to studying together once a week at a certain time.
Kylie: I don’t remember who took the first step or initiative to form a study group, but I think we were all a little anxious to make new friends and meet new people. Over time our study sessions went from actually studying to just talking about our lives and sharing stories!
“Making friends online felt really awkward at first, but now we are so close it is hard to believe that we have never met in person.”
How were you able to make a friendship connection in spite of the challenges of an online setting?
Kylie: I never would’ve thought that I would have become this close with people that I met online. I’ve never experienced anything like this before! I think part of what made our online friendship so successful was having consistent communication.
Paige: To stay connected we have scheduled weekly study meet-ups where we meet in an open Collaborate Ultra room. Most often they turn out to be more of a social night than study time, but it’s still fun.
We also spend a lot of time messaging each other through text or Snapchat. Making friends online felt really awkward at first, but now we are so close it is hard to believe that we have never met in person.
Bree: We’ve created a very encouraging and chill environment in our friendship where my sisters will walk in or Paige’s dog will bark and we become closer from this because it is real life. It’s almost as if we are hanging out in person.
Whenever I have a rough week, or feel discouraged by my schoolwork, I know I can reach out to Paige and Kylie. When they reach out and ask: “Hey, do you want to study together for the midterm on Friday?” it always changes my week for the better.
What was it like entering classes this year, in this difficult situation with primarily online learning?
Bree: Online school, while great, also has some challenges (as you all know). Loneliness is one of them, but Kylie and Paige have completely changed my first-year experience and I am so grateful for them.
It’s easy to get discouraged about constantly doing schoolwork by myself at the kitchen table and struggling with the hours of Zoom calls… I think everyone has felt like this sometimes throughout the past few months.
“It’s so nice to have people to relate and talk to, as I feel like there are very few people who really understand what the university ‘experience’ is like for first-year students this year.”
Paige: I also find that it is difficult to stay focused when your sleeping space, living space, and study space are all in the same room. However, when it comes to the educational side of it, I am quite happy with how the professors have adapted to online learning.
Kylie: What scared me the most about online learning is that I wouldn’t get the opportunity to meet new people; a major factor in contributing to the overall university experience. In a way, being friends with Bree and Paige has lifted a lot of stress off my shoulders. It’s so nice to have people to relate and talk to, as I feel like there are very few people who really understand what the university “experience” is like for first-year students this year.
What advice do you have for students who are feeling disconnected this year?
Kylie: In the online environment, it’s really important to be willing to take the first step in making friends. You’ll probably have to work harder to meet new people than you would if university were in person. However, if you put in the effort, it will definitely pay off. Also, make sure to attend optional sessions, especially with smaller groups of people, as this is what led me to meeting Bree and Paige.
Bree: If I could emphasize one thing that I have learned through making friends online, it would be to put yourself out there. Although it is scary to turn your microphone and camera on, it fully changes the community aspect that you are surrounded by.
Paige: I was really nervous at first to make friends online, but I found that once I began to put myself out there a little more it became a lot easier.
Don’t be afraid to send someone a message asking if they want to chat a little bit — odds are they are looking for a friend as well. University can be difficult at times, and it is a lot easier if you don’t have to walk the path alone.
For other students who have found the online learning environment has made it more challenging to connect with your peers, don’t be discouraged! There are lots of ways to make friends online and many other students feeling just like you.
Check out the UBC Okanagan events calendar to find workshops, info sessions, and webinars that can connect you with other students.
Join a club to find other students who have similar interests.
Ask your peer mentor about upcoming social events. It can be less daunting to go to an event when you know at least one person there.