Why online friendships started to matter to me and how to build them

By Drew McDowell, Brand Ambassador. Online Master of Arts in Sociology student.

In many ways, our worldviews are shaped by those we socialize with in varying degrees. Of course, academia is essentially a world unto itself, and how we socialize, network, and utilize who we know will ultimately work toward shaping our academic experience. It is so important to build a network, find friendships, and look to those who can mentor you, especially when online education is the chosen method. It is so easy to be drawn into seclusion when your educational endeavors begin and end with a screen, especially when your goal is simply academic. However, once your formal education ends, networking and friendships can make the next steps of life a breeze.

Now, if you’re anything like me, you never really gave the idea of building networks and friendships much thought during (perhaps currently) your undergraduate years. However, since deciding to continue my education and being accepted into graduate school, I have changed that thought. Networking, finding my academic peers, and looking for those who have been where I am now all became a focus. It wasn’t easy changing my ways of thinking about my education as solely earning a degree (versus as an opportunity to develop relationships, too), but I made the shift! I learned a few things that helped me build these friendships, and they may help you!

  • Use social media to connect with people who share similar academic interests and experiences.
    • When I applied for graduate schools, I began looking at Instagram accounts that catered to mental health in graduate school and graduate student study suggestions, and I found students who were in or applying for graduate school to connect with.
  • For ASU Online students, many courses offer hallway discussions and discussion boards. While many students will use these at a bare minimum, I would encourage you to create greater discourse through these.
    • Not only will you find a healthier appreciation for academic discussion, you may also find a friend or two in the process.
  • Get involved!
    • Look for opportunities to get involved as a student. Join committees and find local groups of ASU Online students or Alumni in your city!

In growing my own network of friendships during my time of online education, I’ve found it more enjoyable to share what I am learning. I’ve also found that I have joined and become part of a support network that spans many interests, yet supports the same goal: academic and mental wellness. Often enough, we don’t even know if we are missing out on a resource or update in our field, however, I’ve come to build more resources with friendships, and I keep in touch with large changes in my academic field by seeking out mentors. Lastly, be involved with the endeavors of which you are a part of; you are more of an important part of what you are doing than you may ever know!

ASU Brand Ambassador, Drew McDowell, pointing at his laptop.

We're so excited to share Drew’s story! Drew is a part of our #learnASUlive team, an ASU Online brand ambassador program highlighting students who are earning their degrees while living their lives to the fullest. If you enjoyed this, be sure to check back for new articles from Drew so that you can follow along with his journey. To check out all his posts to date, visit Drew’s Instagram!

Want to hear from our other ambassadors, too? Use the #learnASUlive hashtag across your favorite social channels to browse through them!

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