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  • Sophia P

Building community after college and in a new city

Whenever I move to a new place, I always think, what kind of community will I find? I remember a social anthropology professor in graduate school said that one of the challenges of engaging with communities is that what makes a community is so amorphous. Are you a community because you share a language, a geographic location, a religion, a shared interest, multiple intersecting things?

When I went to college, it was one of the first times in life where I was thrown into a situation where I truly knew no one else. A great piece of advice my cousin gave me was to do a pre-orientation program because it will help you get connected early on. He was 100% right, and I'm so glad that I attended our college consortium's diversity program where I met some of my dearest lifelong friends. We've seen each other through so many difficult and joyful seasons in life, and despite the physical distance between us, there's still this deep bond. So if you're attending college or know someone who's planning to attend college, hot tip, apply for a pre-orientation program!

After college, like many young adults, I learned that it's a lot harder to make friends. You can't just walk down the dorm hallway and knock on your friend's door at all hours of the night. You often have to plan and schedule, sometimes weeks in advance, and you don't usually just bump into each other walking around on a shared campus or during meals. There has to be an intentionality to cultivate old and new friendships.

As a recent transplant to a new city, in some ways it feels like starting over again socially, although I am blessed to have a very close friend who lives in the same neighborhood. (I don't know what I'd do without her!) I've been warned about the "Seattle Freeze", and I think there may be some truth to that, although I've been fairly fortunate so far with the people I've encountered. There is a general hunger for gathering again after the isolation of the pandemic, which hopefully will engender more warmth. A few places that have been especially inviting, for which I'm incredibly grateful:

  • the community garden -- everyone I've met at the garden has been warm and friendly, sharing some of their harvest, and offering recommendations on places to visit in Seattle

  • the climbing gym -- such a supportive environment where people cheer each other on whether you fall or make it to the top and offering tips or strategies for how to tackle a tough route

  • the church -- I know several people who have been hurt by other church members or leaders, and particularly in the present US environment of mistrust and the alignment of fundamentalist evangelicals with Trumpism. It's a major problem that I found frustrating and heartbreaking as a Christian. However, that has not been my experience of church communities. Like any group of humans, people are flawed, but I'm grateful to have found a church community where the emphasis is on belonging and humility.

I saw a lovely poster in Cherry Street Coffee House in downtown Seattle on "How to Build Community", which was very motivating, and hopefully reaches many hearts and minds:

(Poster Credit: Syracuse Cultural Workers)

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