One of the challenges military spouses face when relocating is trying to make new connections and friends. While I value my military-connected friendships, I enjoy meeting new people from outside my base community too. Having PCS’d six times and counting, I am excited to share the top four ways I have been able to meet new people outside of the military community.
Get an Early Start Online
Before we moved to New Orleans in 2016, I started researching areas to live, as well as schools and daycares – all online. That is when I came across New Orleans Mom, an online parenting website for moms and families in New Orleans run by local moms. This website and the articles I read lead me to a Facebook group for local moms where I found out about the Montessori preschool my kids attended for several years. New Orleans Mom became an invaluable resource for me – both the website and the groups they ran on Facebook. I learned about neighborhoods to consider, where to send my kids to school, and what activities I wanted to add to my bucket list when we moved to the Big Easy.
There are so many amazing City Mom Collective websites now so I suggest you check one out before your next move!
Make a Difference by Volunteering
Another way I have been able to feel connected to my local community has been by volunteering with non-military connected nonprofits. In 2019, I became a volunteer for a national refugee resettlement organization. In addition to supporting local refugees, I began teaching an online Spanish class to volunteers who wanted to improve their language skills. I was able to meet people interested in welcoming new immigrants and prepare other volunteers to work directly with new arrivals.
Fast forward to our next duty station, I sought out a similar volunteer opportunity and was connected with a new local nonprofit who welcomes and supports asylum seekers. As someone who has relocated many times, including abroad, I enjoy volunteering my time helping new immigrants have a smooth transition to their new home in the United States. While most of my volunteering has been in-person, the COVID world has created so many virtual volunteer opportunities too! Check out VolunteerMatch for opportunities in your area.
Feed Your Soul
Finding a spiritual home in a new city has always helped ground me and my family each time we relocate. As a Jewish family, we are a minority in the military community (less than one percent estimates the Jewish Chaplains Council). My husband and I usually research synagogues in advance and once we arrive we try out a few different ones by attending services with our two children. In every city we have moved to, we have found the Jewish community welcoming to our military family – even in Naples, Italy!
I also want to highlight that feeding your soul doesn’t always have to equal religion. Maybe your spiritual community is a group of enthusiastic yogis or committed tennis players. Finding people that you share an interest with is integral to feeling comfortable and connected when you move.
Become an Advocate
Do you love learning? Do you want to try something new? Take a class or join a local group! I joined a bilingual Spanish/English Toastmasters group when I moved back to the U.S. after an OCONUS tour. I was feeling really motivated to take my Spanish language speaking skills to the next level. The reward? I met like-minded people and grew my public speaking skills. Other ideas include taking classes or lessons such as dance, cooking, or sports. You can also find local groups that meet to work on hobbies like woodworking, archery, chess, quilting, knitting, and so much more. Finding a hobby group or club to join off base can help you make friends and gain new skills!
According to an article from the Mayo Clinic, “Investing time in making friends and strengthening your friendships can pay off in better health and a brighter outlook for years to come.” So while it does take effort and time to meet new people, remember that it’s good for your health to form new friendships. Friendships can boost your happiness, increase your sense of purpose and belonging, and reduce your stress.
While it can seem daunting to take the time to do something for yourself after a big PCS, I can’t think of a more important time to focus on personal health and relationships than after a big move. It can be isolating to be in a new duty station and I am so grateful for the non-military friends I have made and who have helped support me and my military family.