Making some local friends can make your study abroad experience richer. It’ll allow you to dig deeper into the culture of a place, and gives you somewhere to stay when you return as well.
Studying abroad can feel a bit overwhelming at times. It’s easy to fall into the routine of just hanging out with friends from home. They speak the same language as you and, most importantly, they can relate to what you’re going through, because they’re going through it too.
And while it’s great to have people to talk to when you’re feeling homesick, you shouldn’t miss out on making local friends too. This way you’ll make great new friends, and get more into the local culture, one of the best things about studying outside your homeland.
Here are our top 12 tips for making friends with local students in your new country.
1. Don’t be shy
You might be hesitant to approach local students, especially if you feel like your language skills aren’t up to scratch, but you don’t have anything to worry about. A survey conducted by the British Council showed that students in the United Kingdom are overwhelmingly welcoming towards international students, with most admitting that sharing their college lives with students from other countries actually enrich their own university experiences. Some even said they wished they could interact with international students more often! So don’t be afraid to talk to local students – chances are they’re looking forward to making friends with you too. After all, broadening your mental horizons is one of the best things about your university years.
2. Visit Freshers’ Week
Don’t miss out on the first week of the academic year, called Freshers’ Week in the United Kingdom. Here orientation events take place to introduce new students to each other and help them settle in. Attend as many events as you can, and don’t be afraid to talk to all the local students – they may not have travelled thousands of miles to get to university, but some are living away from home for the first time and are as eager to make new friends as you are.
3. Throw a party
It’s no secret that students love to celebrate, so throwing a party in your home is an easy way to get to know lots of new people – just make sure you check the rules in your accommodation first. Team up with your neighbours, buy some food and drinks, and spread the word among your classmates and friends. Cleaning up the next morning might even be a great bonding experience for you all!
4. Sign up for a buddy scheme
Many universities have established mentoring schemes, where freshers are paired with older, more experienced students. Your buddy will show you around the university campus, answer your questions and organise social events with other first-years. You can also go to them for help and advice when you need it. Don’t forget they can also share all the good tips for getting to grips with your classes and lecturers!
5. Join a society
Early in your first semester, the university’s societies and sports teams set up events to draft new members. While there, you can learn more about what they do and sign up to join any clubs you find interesting, or exciting, or maybe even just wonderfully weird. Once you sign up, you’ll be informed about upcoming events and all you have to do is show up, mingle and make friends. Joining lots of clubs and societies is the perfect icebreaker. You’ll instantly have something in common with people and no-matter what the purpose of the club or society, having some fun is usually a key element
6. Use social media
Find out if there’s a social media group for your new accommodation, and request to join it. Once you’re a member, you can communicate with everyone in the group, and you’ll also find invitations to dinners, parties and study sessions that you might not hear about otherwise. You can even start chatting to other students before the year begins, so you’ll recognise some friendly faces when you arrive.
7. Work together
During your studies, you’ll often have to work on group projects with other students in your class. Try to team up with local students to work on projects, instead of sticking with other international classmates. You’ll be spending a lot of time on your projects so you’ll have lots of time to chat and brainstorm over coffee. You might even enjoy a night out together after to celebrate a deadline or good grade.
8. Share your language skills
Depending on where you’re from, you might come across a few students who are studying your native language as part of their degree. They would surely be thrilled to have someone like you help them with their coursework. In exchange, they could help you improve your own language skills. But don’t fret if you can’t find someone like this on your own. There are usually lots of exchange programmes at university that can put you in touch with local students.
9. Get to know your classmates
Make it a habit to sit next to someone new now and then in lectures and tutorials. There are lots of opportunities to chat, perhaps about parts of the course or assignments that have been set. You’ll get to know more and more people and this opens the opportunity for study groups, chats in the library and more!
10. Show off the cuisine from your home country
The way to someone’s heart is through their stomach, or so the saying goes. Invite your classmates or neighbours over to yours and whip up a delicious speciality dish from your home country. Most students aren’t exactly known for their culinary prowess, especially when they’re away from home for the first time, so they’ll be excited to dig into a tasty meal and learn a bit about your culture in the process.
11. Go on excursions
Sign up for trips hosted by your class as well as the societies, clubs and student unions you’re a member of. It’s a great opportunity to get away from the university atmosphere for a while and explore new places away from your daily routine. What’s more, you’ll make lots of new friends in the process. Some societies even organise trips abroad.
12. Leave your comfort zone
Perhaps the most important tip is to be brave and not get stuck in your ways. University is all about new experiences and gives you the chance to meet people from all walks of life. So put yourself out there, and start doing things that are a bit outside your comfort zone. Try windsurfing, yoga, ballroom dancing, volunteering, or just asking ‘how’s your day been?’ from a random person. Join the Quidditch team, take up a cookery course or attend a meeting of the Viking Society, anything. Students are a sociable bunch, and you’ll be surprised by how easily you’ll make friends for life – once you’ve given yourself a little push.