Dear Maddi, I am having trouble making friends

Making friends in university.

11 March 2019

Dear Maddi,

I am finding it difficult to make friends. It seems everyone has an established friend group and I don't want to seem desperate when trying to make friends out of class acquaintances.


Dear Anonymous,

Making friends can feel daunting. It requires conscious effort and a small leap of faith to act in spite of our fear of being rejected. Approaching classmates is normal and it is a great way to make friends. Chances are you may have a lot in common with them!

Everybody wants friends! It's not an act of desperation. Be open, be yourself, be curious, and make sure to listen when the other person is sharing. If you are in the same class ask about their interest in the topic, or their thoughts on the latest assignment. This will help put them at ease and it will show you are genuinely interested in getting to know them. Making Small Talk is often a great way to start a conversation.

If you are looking to join an existing friend group, begin with initiating contact. Consider these two options:

  • Introduce yourself to everyone at once.
  • Get to know a few members, then meet the rest of the group through them.

Taking that first step might be the hardest part. Sometimes it's nervousness from both parties that make a group's "seemingly icy boundaries hard to thaw," says Dr. Bonoir author of The Friendship Fix. To help put things into perspective, consider that a survey completed in 2016 showed that in the previous year almost 64% of post-secondary students experienced overwhelming anxiety (including social anxiety) and 65% felt very lonely (NCHA : Alberta Canada Reference Group, 2016). So, there is a good chance they might be feeling a little like you too.If the ice remains a little thick and you would like to move from acquaintance to being able to spend time with them regularly, you could try Chris Macleod's book The Social Skills Guidebook or a few suggestions from his website Succeed Socially. Here are a some ideas to think about:

  • Find a way to regularly spend time with the group and get to know everyone a little bit at a time.
  • Join in on the group's get togethers starting perhaps with naturally occurring conversations, or a coffee after class.
  • Be patient and make peace with the fact that you might not feel like a full-fledged member for a while.
  • Remember that you don't have to become equally close to everyone, and that every person might have something different to offer as a friend.

Lastly, try to accept that it doesn't always work out. That doesn't mean you did something wrong. It's normal!

If it doesn't work out with this group of people, don't stop trying to make friends elsewhere. Dust yourself off, give yourself a pat on the back for taking a risk and explore other opportunities. In fact, why not try one of these?

  • Meet with a fellow student over a FREE coffee or tea, explore UniTea!
  • Always wanted a workout buddy? Here is your chance! Workout Buddies matches University of Alberta students with similar goals, fitness levels and interests so that you don't have to work out alone.
  • Join a Student Club or a Sports Club at the University of Alberta. Always wanted to beat Harry Potter at his own game? Well, we got a Quidditch Club for you!
  • Volunteer for a campus organization or consider an internship with the Faculty of Science.

And for the more outgoing:

  • What about Nerd Nite: "It's like the Discovery Channel, but with beer!".
  • Trivia Night, Latin Night OR Karaoke Night at the R.A.T.T. Just head to the 7th floor of the Students' Union Building on a Monday, Tuesday or Wednesday night!
  • OR join local people for a Meetup Group. They got everything from Drop-in Knitting and Crocheting to Salsa, Bachata and Kizomba groups.

Give these a try Anonymous and thank you for this great question. Keep them coming, and spread the word, Dear Maddi… is happy to accept submissions!



* Maddalena Genovese, is a Registered Psychologist for Counselling and Clinical Services and the Faculty of Science resident psychologist.

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