Making Friends and Having Fun in Grad School

By: Callie McLean

They don’t tell you that one of the hardest parts of adult life after college is moving away from the friends and family you know and trying to make friends in a new city. Add in a global pandemic, quarantines, and lockdowns and it seems impossible to socialize. How do you avoid feeling isolated and disconnected when we’ve spent so long living through a screen?

When you are in a top ranked program surrounded by brilliant, accomplished people it can be easy to feel imposter syndrome and assume you are not not as smart or accomplished as your peers. The truth: Everyone feels this way, regardless of their resume or GPA. Once I realized that everyone was looking for friends and a support system, it became exponentially easier to make friends. My biggest piece of advice: Put yourself out there! Take advantage of the clubs and interest groups at Rollins. Find events going on in Atlanta. Form study groups for the classes that make you want to pull your hair out sometimes.I made some of my first friends in grad school by sliding in their (GroupMe) DMs to ask for help in classes. Sit outside in the courtyard or down in the Gracement to do your homework in case people want to stop by and join you. Attend school-wide social events like Convos on Tap (coming from a former social chair), department events planned by your reps, or Emory graduate school events planned by GSGA! The people around you will be your peers, classmates, support system, and future colleagues; it’s important to get to know them.

Although there are an abundance of opportunities to socialize and have fun at school, it is important to remember we are also living in a major city with endless opportunities for fun. If you are a foodie there is no shortage of incredible restaurants to work your way through with friends. If you have a group of friends and want to cater to multiple cravings, Ponce City Market and Krog Street Market are food halls with plenty of options. If you like trying fun new cocktails or local beers, there is also no shortage of breweries and bars. I suggest getting a group of friends together and happy hour hopping restaurants or rooftop bars. This is a more affordable way to test out new places with your friends and explore the city. If you don’t mind paying for admission, there are also attractions such as the Georgia Aquarium, Botanical Gardens, National Center for Civil and Human Rights, Coca-Cola Museum, Zoo Atlanta, the High Museum, and many others. If you enjoy sports, we have the Atlanta Falcons, Atlanta United, Atlanta Braves, and the Atlanta Hawks. There are often student deals or special event pricing for these attractions if you keep your eyes and ears open. Otherwise, you can watch the games with friends at home or places like the Battery. If you enjoy music, venues like the Coca-Cola Roxy, State Farm Arena, and Mercedes Benz Stadium host incredible music artists (and sometimes some stand-up comedians as well if you’re interested in that!). Atlanta also hosts music festivals like Music Midtown and Shaky Knees.  If you are looking for free options, there are plenty of those too! There are an abundance of parks scattered around the city and the Beltline is a 22+ mile walkable/bikeable path around the city. My dog and I love taking walks on the Beltline and playing in Piedmont Park. I’ve spent many hours studying, laying out, running through, and picnicking with friends in Piedmont Park. All that being said, a relaxed movie night with friends at an apartment with snacks is underrated. I recommend keeping your social calendar diverse with a mix of all of these things for a fulfilled, fun social life.

You are to be commended for being accepted to such an esteemed and well respected program. This is a difficult degree and the projects you will go on to do will be important and impactful. Graduate school is full of classes, jobs, internships, theses, and capstones. However, it should also be full of friends and fun. When else are you going to be surrounded by peers who share so many of the same interests and experiences as you? Take advantage of the lifelong friendships that are waiting to be made and the plethora of opportunities being offered by the school and the city. As always, don’t forget to wash your hands and keep getting tested!  

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