Spark a Connection and the joy of beginning new friendships

Read time: 3 min

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By Madeline Hope

Director, Mental Health Promotion Specialist

Health & Wellness Education

So many new students are thinking about connection and friendship when starting college. It presents us with both excitement and sometimes worry!

Often there are thoughts like: 

“How will I meet people?”

“Will I find others who share my interests?”

“Will I be stuck in a vortex of small talk forever?!”

“I’m exhausted already!”


So much of our world encourages us to hide our hopes of connection, but in reality, that’s what makes us human. Connection with others is a powerful way to care for your mental health. Social time isn’t expendable, it’s actually essential to our well-being! When we feel connected to others it builds our sense of belonging and helps to weather difficult times.


Maybe you’re someone who has had the same friends since grade school, or maybe you’re used to changing communities often. The good news is no matter how long it’s been since you’ve made new friends, establishing new friendships is a skill that can be practiced and improved upon. One of the most challenging parts of friendship can be initiating. 


Here are a few tips for making new friends: 


Be open to new connections and the awkwardness of developing them

This one might seem obvious, but being on the lookout for friendship potential and excited about the possibility can quell or challenge nervousness you might have about forming new connections. Of course, it’s a bit strange getting to know new people, but you’re in it together. You can overcome it! 


Invest in doing things you like to do

Finding shared interests means actually seeking out what you like to do on campus! Make a point to join a group or activity that helps you to connect with folks who like what you like. 


Remember that people will like you more than you think

You’re great and gosh darn it, people like you! People like connecting, it may just mean pushing a bit past our tendency to shy away from new encounters. 

Here are some events to jump start your connections on campus! Both of these events take the guesswork out of finding people who are open to friendship because they’re specifically meant to introduce and develop connections between people!

Spark a Connection

A one night event during orientation for first year students led by Middlebury’s Mental Health Peer Educators (MHPE). Students in MHPE lead an event of connection building and conversation by guiding small groups through a series of fun and interesting questions. Sign up at go/sparkaconnection



A 6-week conversation and connection building group led by Mental Health Peer Educators. Students lead groups of 6 or fewer students through a series of questions designed to build friendship, do a community project and enjoy a free meal together! Open to all students. Sign up a go/projectconnect