Studying abroad can be a scary leap of faith when you’re leaving behind your loved ones and support network, but diving into a new environment can open you up to new experiences and enable you to make new life long friends.
Living overseas alone can be extremely isolating and lonely, which is why making friends is so important. While making new friends as a young adult can seem intimidating, it is definitely doable, and we’ve compiled a list of seven easy ways you can do it.
Whether you choose to implement all or some of these ideas, just remember it can pay off to get out of your comfort zone and always be yourself.
Go to orientation
When studying abroad, the good news is you’re surrounded by people in the exact same boat as you are, you just have to find them.
Luckily for you finding them isn’t hard at all. Most institutions offer an orientation specific to international students before classes begin but there will also be general orientations you can attend too.
Some abroad programs will also house you with other international students, which will increase your opportunities to build friendships.
Meeting like-minded people, who are just as fresh to your new location as you are can be comforting. No one will understand the experience you are going through quite like them. Feeling homesick? Struggling to adjust to your new culture? Keep getting lost when navigating campus? Chances are these guys have had the same experience.
Make friends in orientation and carry those friendships through your entire abroad experience and the rest of your life.
Live with roommates or a host family
Depending on your circumstances, this one isn’t always possible, but if you can make it work we could not recommend it enough. Being overseas can be lonely and roommates are like compulsory friends.
When you are sharing the same living space and spending time together on a daily basis, it is hard not to bond.
Try having a roomie dinner once a week, do a workout together, or combine your weekly grocery shops.
Just make sure you also respect each other’s space when needed as living on top of each other can have the opposite outcome and lead to friction.
Be a ‘yes’ person when you can
It can be scary to put yourself out of your comfort zone and say yes when opportunities to socialise with people you don’t know come up. It is important to keep in mind that if you don’t put yourself out there you are cutting yourself off from opportunities to make new friends.
When you get invited to attend something, even if you wouldn’t usually attend, treat this as an extended olive branch. And remember, if the person who invited you didn’t want you there, they wouldn’t have asked in the first place.
A big reason why it is important to be a yes person in these situations is that if you always so no, you run the risk of your invitations eventually drying up.
So, accept the olive branch and don’t forget to return the favour.
It may be an introvert’s worst nightmare, but it can pay off to be brave.
Next time you’re sitting in class, working out at the gym, or in line for coffee say hello to the person next to you. Strike up a conversation and you never know where it might take you.
While you might not find your perfect friendship match every time, the socialisation will be good for you. And if it doesn’t work out, just remind yourself that it is good practice.
Seek out opportunities
Wherever you’ve moved to there are so many opportunities to participate and be involved in social activities, you just have to look for them.
Join Facebook groups, keep an eye on notice boards and search for community events.
You may be lucky enough to stumble into some friendships, but a lot will require a proactive approach and some research.
While not all schools have compulsory attendance to classes, making friends through your shared pain of getting through a subject together is easy.
If you’re studying a similar degree or have interests in the same classes, chances are you’ll have some things in common.
The best thing about making friends in your classes is that next semester you can try and align your timetables to do classes together again and repeat all the way until the end of your studies.
Plus you’ll have someone to study with and if you have group assignments it is always good to have someone you know you can rely on.
Whether they be social, sporting or study, joining groups is a great way to meet people.
Seeking out a group of people who share similar interests or are in a similar situation to you is a great way to forge connections.
Most institutions have organised groups as part of their services but you can also look online to find groups in your local area.
Volunteering is a great way to not only give back and get some good karma, but also to make friends.
Look online or ask your educational institution to help you seek out volunteering.
With these ideas, making friends will be easy, the hardest part will be saying goodbye at the end of your international study experience.