Moving to a new city all by yourself can be really intimidating, especially if you don’t know anyone there. Last year, in June of 2019, I had the opportunity of a lifetime to do a 6-month internship in Los Angeles at a company called Giggster. The company was looking for a digital marketing intern, and they were looking for someone with tech as well as a filmmaking background. That’s me!

When I moved to Los Angeles, I moved with absolutely nothing other than 2 suitcases and my internship offer. I didn’t have any close friends or family in the city at all, and I didn’t even have a place to stay beyond the initial 10 days at a backpacker hostel.

It was a completely clean slate for me. I had to build my own life there — that meant finding a place to live as well as building a social life from scratch.

Your social life opens up as much as you do.

In the beginning, it was tough — I would go out and explore the city by myself, and I would see people hanging out with their groups of friends and their partners, and I’d be like “damn, I wish I had that here”. I was in a beautiful place, I wanted people to share experiences with.

Since I had no friends, I decided to make an extra effort to find social opportunities and say yes to almost every opportunity that I came across. I searched for and attended meetups and free classes by myself, I reached out to everyone I even remotely knew that was in the city, and I was more than open to getting out of my comfort zone, going to bars and restaurants by myself, and speaking to people I came across.

This effort paid off massive dividends over a very short amount of time. Even though every encounter didn’t lead to a friendship, even if 10% of encounters led to a friendship, that’s 10 friends for a 100. And 10 friends is enough!

By the end of my time in LA, I had numerous friends — some of whom I’m still in touch with today.

Here’s how I made my closest LA friends.

Cristine is one of my closest and most inspirational friends from my time in LA, and I literally met her in the back of an Uber Pool one evening. We were chatting with the driver about where we were from and what we were doing, and she found it exciting that I study in France since she studied there too. We exchanged contact information and met up multiple times afterwards to hang out – I even helped her with a school project and she modelled for a photoshoot I did!

One of my classmates from school, Veena, was also in LA and she introduced me to Sujay, another classmate from school. Sujay and I became good friends, and he introduced me to his flatmate Mandar — and the three of us hung out quite often. They were the ones to host me in their home in my last week before I left. I even introduced them to Cristine and we all went out to see the Halloween Parade together.

All of us together on Halloween

I also became good friends with one of my flatmates, Joel, a student from Singapore, and he introduced me to his friends Kim and Kaylynn. The four of us hung out every now and then – skateboarding around Santa Monica, going to the gun range, eating out at different restaurants, whatnot. They took me out to dinner and drove me to see the city from a hill peak in Malibu on my last day in LA.

My manager at Giggster, Reagan, and I hung out every now and then as well. We’d go skateboarding or biking, and generally have great conversation in the office. Another colleague of mine, Ryan, and I would hang out every now and then as well. I even convinced him to join an Ultimate Frisbee tournament with me, and we hiked up the Runyon Canyon this one time as well.

And finally, I met Tiffany through a dating app called Hinge. I took the chance and travelled an hour and a half away to Long Beach to meet her, and we saw each other every Sunday for the next 4 months after that. We had an amazing time together and explored the entire city of Long Beach and the surrounding areas.

I also had some other interesting experiences.

Josh and Lawrence at our weekly French practice session.

I met Josh and Lawrence at a French speakers meetup, and neither of us three liked the meetup very much. However, we hit it off and proceeded to meet every week to practice French with each other for 2 hours over a happy hour at a bar.

I attended a socialising meetup for 20-somethings and met Andrew there. We hit it off, and met every other Friday or so for drinks at a local bar. This one time he brought a friend along and we had a crazy night at a local bar!

I met Helene at a language exchange meetup, and we decided to hang out at a café and work together one evening. That’s when she told me about Improv For The People, the improv theatre she was a part of, and urged me to try it as well. I did, and I attended one class every week until I left, and had some great experiences while I was there.

In the first couple of weeks I was in LA, when I was at the Griffith Observatory, I met Vanessa, who was in LA on vacation with her au-pair family. We explored the Observatory together and took pictures of each other, and had a great time! I never saw her again after that.

Once when waiting for a bus, a man asked me if I knew when the bus was arriving. While talking, he asked me if I was into science, looking at the spaceship badge on my bag, that I’d got from the Griffith Observatory. Turns out he’s a senior engineer at Amazon. We then got on the same bus and had a long chat about productivity, science and future of mankind. We met up a month later, for him to mentor me on productivity and my career.

One of the baristas at my favourite coffee shop in Santa Monica, Philz, and I hit it off since I would go there often. We even exchanged contact information but didn’t end up hanging out because I left soon after.

Beach Volleyball in Santa Monica

I even played glow-in-the-dark beach volleyball with a bunch of strangers, and I managed to pull Josh from my French group along to play as well!

In essence:

Even though every encounter won’t lead to a friendship, even if 10% of encounters leads to a friendship, that’s 10 friends for a 100. And 10 friends is enough!

Here are some tips I have after going through all of this:

  • Don’t be afraid to go to places and meetups alone. There are plenty of people attending these meetups who are looking to make friends.
  • Learn the art of conversation. One of the books that I highly recommend is How To Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie.
  • Make a move. Suggest to hang out, ask for a number/social, and follow up.
  • Not all encounters will convert to anything. During my time in LA, I attended tons of different events, concerts, and classes, and I spoke to hundreds of people at those events.
  • The idea is to increase the number of encounters to increase the chances that something good will come out of them.

If you’re new in a city and don’t have any friends, take inspiration and go out! You never know who you’ll meet.

-M

2 thoughts on “How I Made A Vibrant Social Life as a J1 Intern in LA”

  1. This is some inspiring stuff, Mayank. I did follow your content while in LA and wondered that you were fortunate to have a group to hang out in a new city. But this tells the effort behind it. While most of us stick to our comfort zones and stick to screens all day, your mindset and experiences are refreshing. Thanks for sharing, the 10% of encounters lead to a friendship struck a chord with me. Will be eagerly waiting for more such posts 🙂

    – Sid

    1. Hey Siddharth! Thanks a lot, I really appreciate the kind words. It is true, you miss all the shots you don’t take. 🙂

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