No matter how hard you try to avoid it, you will be exposed to a new environment sometime in your life.

I discovered this a few years back. These new situations can include going to a different school (just like I did), starting a new job, or even moving to a completely new town.

Exploring your new space and figuring out where you fit in is something everyone has to do at least once.

Fitting in isn’t always easy. Sometimes, nobody knows who you are, and it can be tough to gather the courage to approach someone and get to know them.

Everyone’s experience navigating a new space is different, but you don’t have to go through it alone.

A few years ago, I switched schools, and I learned a lot from that experience. Here are some tips that might help you find your place and make the best out of a new situation.

Step 1:

Get to know your new environment

Your environment has a huge impact on your life. Where you choose to (or have to) spend your time can affect your mood, the friends you make, and the things you do. Take some time to observe the places and community around you. Is there an activity at your school that you’d like to participate in? Is there a group of friends you’d like to join? Even an adult who has a cool job that you’d like to learn more about?

Try imagining yourself in other people’s shoes. Try to see what they do for fun and what shapes their personalities. 

Step 2:

Find friends you belong with

Feeling like you belong is probably the most crucial part of moving to a new environment. Friends help you through life and new experiences, and good friendships can last a long time. To make new friends, try to find a place where you feel like you fit in easily.

You never need to act like someone else to make friends. You don’t need to go against your values or do anything you’re uncomfortable with. 

A good way to find the people you fit in with is by starting with small conversations. Find fun things to talk about with others and see if you have anything in common.

You might find people to talk to in random places, like when you’re walking down the hallway at school, finding your seat in class, or picking out snacks at the grocery store. 

For some people, small conversations can be challenging. You can always start with a compliment if small talk isn’t your jam. Say something nice to someone you want to meet and start a flow of kindness.

Step 3:

Be empathetic

When I moved to a new middle school, I didn’t really feel I got the support I needed from other classmates. It was like standing in a field with fortresses all around me. All those fortresses had already been fortified with the doors closed. 

I know what would have helped me then was a friend, but I had a hard time finding them. I know how it feels to be the new kid and search for a friendly person to talk to.

Some people didn’t care to stop and talk with the new kid wandering through the hallway alone. For people who have a new person in their community, I encourage you to notice them. Make them feel welcome.

If you notice a new person looking jittery, scared or nervous, show them a sign of friendship and try to help them settle in. Start a conversation with them, introduce yourself, and get to know them. 

You might not be the new kid, but you can still help welcome them. Everybody wants to feel liked and comfortable in their new space. Show some empathy to a new community member (or anyone else who looks like they are still searching for a community) and think about how you can help. 

In summary

Settling into a new environment is something we all go through — even if it was just on your first day of kindergarten. But you’ll likely have to be the new person again at some point in your life. 

Some people can settle into new spaces easily, but others take small steps. Both strategies work for different types of people. 

For some, searching for friends is a safe route. Others might prefer to show their personality to their new peers and allow friends to come to them. 

For others, being in a new environment is just too overwhelming to even know where to start. If you already feel comfortable in your school or community, you can be the one to show new people around and make them feel welcome. 

If you want to learn more about fitting in, I recommend the book The Introvert Advantage by Marti Olsen Laney. It definitely helped me find my place in my environment and understand how my brain works. Use this article to its fullest and I’m sure you’ll find your place too.

Moose Landow

Moose L. is a member of the Forward Together Youth Council. He is 14 years old and lives with his family in Denver, Colorado