Finding your tribe while socially distancing at college

Finding your tribe while socially distancing at college

Wednesday, 01 September 2021

College can be a daunting place in a standard year. Though this year continues to throw up additional challenges.

At school, there were probably 30 people, at most, in your classes at a time. You more than likely had a desk or a locker and a place for your things. You owned a bit of space.

Now, you might have virtual lectures with 200 students. Timetabling, and limited numbers on campus grounds for now, can mean fewer opportunities to meet people outside of your course group.

Check your own college’s arrangements during COVID-19 here.


It can take time to meet people and make friends at college. So don’t stress if you haven’t made friends in the first few weeks.

Feeling frustrated

Many students feel frustrated at not having a usual college experience. This normally includes opportunities to meet people and find your tribe at college. 

However, this is only the beginning of your college career. So don’t stress if you haven’t made friends in the first few weeks.

The people you end up hanging out with when you finish college could be completely different to who you meet in the first year. And that’s OK.

A fresh start

For some of us, school was an awful experience. When anyone older said “school is the best days of your life” it might have made you shudder with dread.

College could be your hope for a new start. Remember that it is. As is each year that comes after this one.

If you had a bad experience with another student or teacher, put that behind you and enjoy the fresh slate.

Watch Jess and Conor talking about starting again with making new friends.



‘Looks like everyone else is having a great time’

On social media and WhatsApp groups, it can look like gangs of people adapt quickly to the ‘new normal’ of college. They seem to find each other easily. Some people appear to move through making firm friendships and acquaintances without bother.

We know about people putting their best foot forward on social media. Sure, we all do it.

But when things get a bit difficult, we can still give ourselves a hard time. This can result in scrolling through Instagram, telling ourselves everyone is having a great time except for us.

The negative stories we tell ourselves can get in the way of us meeting new people and forming friendships.

Shared interests will help you find your tribe.

Tips to find your tribe at college

Join college societies

Freshers’ week traditionally has all the societies setting up their stalls, trying to get new members. Much of this activity may now be online and not all societies will be able to run as expected.

However, campuses are doing their best to facilitate the running of social activities in a safe way.

Joining societies allows you to try new things and meet like-minded people. From archery to history, from debating to rowing, there’s nothing to lose by signing up to a good few.

You more than likely won’t be able to keep them all up as things get busier. But hey, see which ones stick. Shared interests will help you find your tribe.

Go to the meetings

This one sounds really basic. But it’s very easy to put your name down for something when you read the exciting description.

Turning up for meetings, even if they are virtual, is where the commitment and putting yourself out there comes in. For sure it is more difficult to make small talk on a zoom call. But make use of any private chat functions or break out rooms to connect with new people.

>> Watch Jess and Conor talking about how to start a conversation

Remember, stay in touch with old friends, but don’t use them as an excuse to not try to meet new people.

Feeling cut off from friends

Staying connected with friends from school can be good, if you value these friendships. Having contact with those you grew up with can be grounding. It can create a sense of home and space when you need it.

If you are living at home, you may find older friends are a way of maintaining a physical social life.

Remember, stay in touch with old friends, but don’t use them as an excuse not to meet new people.

  • Watch your ‘inner voice’- If are telling yourself “everyone but me is having a ball”, pause for a second. You are more than likely one of many who think this. Thoughts like this can affect how we are with people and hinder us forming new relationships.
  • Be open- Starting college brings a lot of change and it can be overwhelming. Keep an open mind and be friendly to those you meet. Everyone else is in a similar boat to you. Promise.

Remember why you’re here. Remind yourself it is a privilege to have a place at college and it took work to get there. Quite a bit of work needs to be done to stay there too.

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