One of the easiest ways to make lasting friendships is by being a student. When people are in the same place, facing the same challenges, and meeting up with the same people day after day, finding new friendships seems effortless. Opportunities aren't as plentiful after graduation but it's never too late to go back to school.
If you're in search of a new BFF, a great way to expand your social ties is to register for a summer session or one-day course. It's a relatively brief commitment of time and the payoff can be extremely rewarding, both in terms of what you'll learn and whom you'll meet. Continuing education programs sponsored by high schools, colleges, for-profit educational companies, and non-profit volunteer programs offer a wide range of possibilities.
Depending on where you live, here are some ideas to kick-start your thinking about finding a summer experience that's right for you:
- The Osher Lifelong Learning Institute (OLLI), part of the continuing education arm of the University of California, Irvine, provides courses for retired and semi-retired adults who want to continue learning. The "Summer Lite'" program offers one-session courses on topics such as: birding in a nature sanctuary; pairing wine and foods (the only course requirement is to come to class with three empty wineglasses); and learning about orchids through a greenhouse visit. (The UC Irvine extension program and others like it, also provide opportunities for college graduates to improve their job skills and proficiencies during evenings and weekends, and online.)
- Washington University in St. Louis' Lifelong Learning Institute offers a variety of interesting day-a-week courses on such topics as: the history of professional baseball, how to write a movie review; and on Broadway musicals between the two World Wars.
- If you want to return to college and actually live on a campus, Sarah Lawrence College in Bronxville, New York offers a three-week intensive summer course in dance training for beginners to late-career dancers. The faculty, who has worked together for 12 years, includes instructors from the Julliard School, George Mason University, and the NYU Tisch School of the Arts. Sarah Lawrence also offers a five-week summer intensive enabling participants to gain hands-on experience and instruction in all aspects of filmmaking, including: writing for the screen, directing, production, and post-production.
- Projects Abroad is a short-term international volunteer program with projects in 26 countries. This summer, the organization is offering 14-, 30-, and 60-hour "Language Plus" courses for those who want to learn a new language or practice skills that have gotten rusty. The courses are run in association with international volunteer programs, and are tailored to each individual's language skills. The combination of didactic courses and daily immersion in a new culture enhances a volunteer's ability to communicate with locals abroad.
- The School of Liberal Arts and Continuing Education at Purchase College of the State University of New York offers both enrichment courses and certificate programs for professionals. During the summer session, participants can learn: how to do voice-overs for commercials; how to use color in design; and how to boost their speed-reading skills.
- Steven Schragis, the founder of One-Day University, a program of live and online lectures by university professors, has developed a rapidly expanding new program, called Empty Nest, designed to interest and entertain empty nesters. The offerings include one day-courses on: the five greatest movies ever made; the five paintings every art lover should see; and what makes great music great (from Beethoven to the Beatles.)
"Entertainment value is just as important or even more so than education," says Schragis. "Registrants don't have to pass a test at the end of the semester," he adds. "They want to be intellectually stimulated, maybe meet some new people, and have fun."
Here are some specific tips on how to make new school chums as an adult:
- Let people know you are a friendly person by making eye contact and smiling when you speak.
- Show interest in others by paying compliments or asking questions.
- Start a dialogue: Find out why the other person is taking the same course as you.
- Use class breaks to socialize rather than burying your head in a cell phone.
- Participate in class discussions so others get a sense of you as a person.
- Provoke discussion by commenting during or after the class on what someone else has said.
- Ask someone you're attracted to for an email address or phone number in case you have to miss a class.
Even if you don't connect with a new friend for the long term, summer experiences such as these offer a respite from your usual routines, make you a more interesting person, and provide fodder for discussions with friends-to-be throughout the year.
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