By Amanda Huffman
Moving to a new place is hard for so many reasons logistically. But it can also be challenging emotionally — not only saying goodbye to friends you have made in the past, but also in building a new community at your new assignment. Sometimes you get lucky and the person next door has kids the same age and you click, but more often than not finding a new group of friends takes time and effort. Here are some of the best ways I have found to make new friends at a new assignment.
In a recent survey, 60% of Americans said they were lonely. This survey wasn’t just for military families, it was for all Americans. But when you factor in a military lifestyle, you can understand where such loneliness can come from. Continually starting over can be challenging, but it also is an opportunity to make new friends. Perhaps knowing that so many people are lonely can make it a little bit easier to step outside your comfort zone to try and find a new friend.
One of the best parts of military life is the people that you meet along the way. Being away from family can force you to meet new people and then spend more time with them than you would if you stayed close to home. While loneliness is a part of military life, know that there are great friends out there waiting to support you in your journey. But it does require you to get out of your house and interact with people you probably don’t know yet!
Join an Organization
Depending on your life stage, there may be a group of people who are going through similar life circumstances. Most likely, your base or unit will have a military spouse group you can be a part of. Military spouses face many similar challenges and often understand the desire for friendship, so it can be easy to connect with others. But you don’t have to limit your connection to on-base organizations. There are also groups for moms of kids at various stages of life, single groups, married groups, etc. Look for a group with people in a similar life stage and connect with them.
Find Others Who Are Like-minded
If you have a hobby you like to do, see if there is a group in the local area where you could connect with other like-minded individuals. For example, if you like to run, see if there is a local running group. If you are a mom and like to work out, see if there are mommy-and-me fitness classes. If you like to mountain bike, are an artist, like to read, etc., find a group that focuses on one of your favorite hobbies. Odds are there will be people there who you can connect with.
Volunteering is another way to meet people with a like-minded goal or focus. When you choose to volunteer with an organization, it is often because you are passionate about whatever that organization is supporting. Even showing up to pick up trash on your local highway is a way to meet other people who care about your community. Volunteering has been a great way for me not only to meet other people in the community but also feel more connected to the community I am a part of. It is a win-win in so many ways.
Get Involved in a Community Organization
There has been a recent trend of younger people going back to church. This is not necessarily because they are looking for a relationship with God or a higher power, but instead, because they are looking for people they can connect with. Church is a great place to meet new people especially if you belong to the religious institution you are attending.
My last piece of advice is building a community takes time. Going to one event or hanging out with one person at a time won’t automatically build a strong meaningful friendship. It will take time and effort. Military life doesn’t give us a lot of time, so sometimes the time it takes to build a relationship can feel overwhelmingly slow. But it can also lead to creating close friendships really quickly. Either way, it will likely take at least more than one interaction to build a group of friends. And it is definitely worth the effort!
Amanda is a military veteran who served in the Air Force for six years as a Civil Engineer who served on a combat deployment with the Army in Afghanistan. She traded in her combat boots for a diaper bag to stay home with her two boys and follow her husband’s military career in the Space Force. Amanda is the host of the Women of the Military podcast. There she shares the stories of women who have served or are serving in the military. The podcast has over 200 episodes and over 100K downloads. Amanda is also an author and has published two books. Her first book, Women of the Military tells the stories of 28 military women who served in the military. Her second book, A Girl’s Guide to Military Service, is the IBPA Benjamin Franklin Gold Winner for Teen Non Fiction. It is a guide for high school girls considering military service to help them build a strong foundation for their future career. She also works as a freelance writer and has been featured in a number of military publications including The War Horse, Military.com, Military Families Magazine, Clearance Jobs, Military Spouse Magazine, and more.