No matter where it is you’re moving, be it an hour down the road or a continent away, making friends is always going to be a major concern.
One of the most exciting parts of studying abroad is the opportunity to meet some pretty cool people from all over the world. At the same time, that initial leap can be terrifying; heading overseas, completely alone, without a single connection in the country once you land.
But don’t fret! A university setting is a fool-proof place to make friends – you’re surrounded by similar aged people, many of whom are in the exact same boat as you. They too left loved ones and best friends behind, and are looking to fill the void.
If you’re looking for social success while you study abroad, follow these tips and you’ll be swimming in a pool of new friends in no time at all!
1. Take full advantage of your university surroundings
Striking up conversation with your classmates is as easy as asking their names, or if there is any homework due next lecture. If the class requires group work, get to know your team members; maybe stay a bit longer after the actual work is done and chat over a cup of coffee…or (if we’re being more realistic) maybe even a pint. As you walk through campus, ask other students where they’re from and what inspired them to study here. The process is reciprocol- other students will be interested in your international roots, too!
2. Push yourself out of your comfort zone
It may be easy to meet people at university, but new friends aren’t going to come knocking at your door. Make an effort to join clubs you otherwise wouldn’t, even if you’re tired and would prefer to lounge around and watch TV, try to make the extra effort to attend nighttime club meetings, film screenings, or international student reunions. Many universities also have extracurricular sports clubs and you don’t need to be a varsity athlete to join. Never played Ultimate Frisbee before? Sign up and view it as a fun way to get some exercise, take a break from the books and meet some really great people.
3. Don’t be afraid to go to things alone
At home, maybe you wouldn’t be caught dead going to a movie or eating lunch by yourself. Why would you even need to? All of your friends were at your beck and call! But when you move abroad, you’ll want to take advantage of campus events and opportunities, and initially you might not have an army of friends to accompany you. Conquer the great fear of solitude and attend clubs, organisations, or weekly comedy shows by yourself, then delve right in and strike up a conversation with someone whilst you’re there. It’s actually a whole lot simpler than it sounds. After the first minute, you’ll no longer be “alone”!
4. Take advantage of university-organised events for international students
Most universities realise studying abroad is a really a tough transition, so they make an extra effort to accommodate international students and make them feel comfortable, often times through social events. It’s almost guaranteed that everyone who attends these activities are looking for the same things you – to get to know people and forge lasting connections. Permanent students at the home university may be open to new friends, but often have pretty established peer groups from their prior years. International students are allergic to these clicks, so making new friendships with fellow exchange students is bound to require minimal effort.
5. Don’t rely too heavily on technology
Facebook is great for staying in contact with old friends from home and turning overseas acquaintances into real-life friends, but spending too much time in front of a screen can be a real handicap when it comes to the social game. Being too tied to your old life and spying on what friends back home are up to can exaggerate nostalgia, no matter how great a time you’re having abroad. Seeing a photo of your best friends out to dinner together can remind you of what you’re missing out on at home, instead of the new and exciting university experiences. There’s no need to do away with social networks entirely – just be sure to use them sparingly.
The foreign social sport can seem intimidating at first, but with a little extra effort and just a dash of confidence, making lifelong friends overseas should be a breeze!
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