Updated: Oct 10, 2020
One of the worst things about being a military teen is the necessity of moving often - and one of the worst things about moving is leaving friends behind and ending up in a new place with no familiar faces. Is there perhaps a simple way to have an easier time finding new friends? Although a lot about making friends depends on what kind of person you are, there's a few general things I've learned from my experience as a military teen that could potentially help those of you moving somewhere new this summer.
First of all (this is obvious), go do things with other people, rather than just hanging out alone around your house all day. If you're athletic, join a school sports team; if you're musical, join band/choir. There's probably dozens of other clubs to join at your school. Something very important to note, though, is that while after-school activities are amazing for having fun with friends, and looking good when applying for college, joining every single club out there is definitely not a good idea! You only have a finite amount of time, and you should focus on sports and clubs that you’re interested in and passionate about! If there’s really nothing that interests you in the area that you just moved to though, then that’s a tough situation. Maybe try something new, and if after a while it still isn’t satisfying (or people there are unfriendly), perhaps try something else. Also, here’s a pro-tip: not all clubs/activities are necessarily connected to your school.
For example, the chapel often organizes youth groups like Club Beyond. Even if you're not Christian, you're definitely still welcome to come, get some free food, and meet some friends. If you're a gamer, you can have an amazing friend group built up with other military teens at your station playing the same games on Steam, chatting via Discord, and hanging out at each other's houses. People might say you're antisocial for not doing any official school clubs, but don't listen to them. Eventually, you and your friends could even start an official E-sports team at your school and have the last laugh!
Joining youth groups is often an amazing way to make friends!
So, what else might be barriers to making friends, even if you already hang out with other (military) teens? There’s two things I can think of here: trying to be something you’re not, and issues with confidence/humility.
I had a lot of trouble after all my friends from XC and Track left me in Yokota; it seemed the only group of runners who would be staying at Yokota with me were the elite runners with whom I had nothing in common and couldn’t relate to, so I decided not to do XC and Track the following year. I wasn’t really a runner anyways - I just figured that as a guy, I had to do a sport in order to make friends (which isn’t true). Trying to fit in by doing something you don’t enjoy is not a good idea. Instead, you should be yourself. You’ve probably heard this so many times and it’s super annoying, but it’s true. In 11th grade, I did a year-long research project/experiment/academic paper about surfing, a hobby that was uniquely mine for the most part. I met some great people at STEMinars and JSHS, and we got to go to Okinawa for the regional competition and then to New Mexico for the national competition. I was probably a lot happier than I would've been if I would’ve just run long distance all year again.
Nationals JSHS back from 11th grade, and this year's Humphreys STEMinars group
Another tough issue is confidence/humility - if you think you’re a loser and won’t be able to make any friends, people aren’t probably going to want to be your friend. Even if you’ve been bullied in the past, now you’re starting fresh at a totally new school - be happy that you’re not at your old school. If you’re really at a loss, a chapel's youth group would be somewhere to start. On the other side of the spectrum, being super arrogant isn’t good either. A lot of times, people can get away with being either self-deprecating or arrogant if they already have a bunch of friends. However, when you first move somewhere, looking down on all the lower-grades, or people who play soccer instead of football, or etc... is definitely not a good idea - not just because you’re being a bully, but because now you’ve just lost an entire potential group of friends (also I hypothesize that this leads to racism, sexism and hyperpartisanship later in life). For example, had I been a senior-supremist moving into Humphreys, I would’ve never known any of my Sophomore friends, including our "famous" co-founder of Bloom, Matthew Oh, and his co-host on PCS profiles, Matthew Ahn.
In the end, be thankful for the friends you have and try to stay in touch after you move. Also, welcome new people moving in, because you'd want to be welcomed too!