I stepped off the plane and it hit me, I have no friends and no family on this entire continent. My nearest friend was a $500, 8-hour long flight away. Panic set in. It felt urgent to make a tonne of new friends. IT WAS NOT URGENT. The first thing to realise when you’re in this situation: it is normal to have no friends yet and it is absolutely fine. You may get thoughts like: “what if I make no friends” but these are unfounded worries. “But what if I haven’t made a new friend since the first year, what if I’ve forgotten how to?” You haven’t, if you have friends, you can make more, plus everyone will think your super cool just for being a foreigner, making friends will be easy! That said, here’s some advice to help things run a bit smoother:
Go to the freshers or “introduction week” events, this is where all the other new student will be and it’ll give you a good head start. Also, this is one of the best places to meet other international students. “Naa doesn’t sound good to me, I want to immerse myself with the locals.” Although I commend the open-minded attitude (and yes you definitely should make local friends too) the other international students will be your venting partner when you miss baked beans, they will empathise when you cry from excitement about going to a Walmart and, in my opinion, most importantly they will be your loyal travel buddies. Whilst locals MAY travel with you, the extensive travelling, such as the 4000-mile road trip I did, international students will be more likely to commit their time and money.
Join a club! Yep, you’re probably about to close this article, this is obvious, so I’ll keep it brief. Aside from the obvious (sports teams etc…), look out for societies that offer regular one-off events, the kind that draws new people every week. My personal example of this is the Weekend Warriors. They ran events such as hikes, fishing and skiing most weeks, there’d be 20-40 new people every time I went, as well as a few regulars, this is where I was most successful in meeting new people.
Become a dog walker for a super cute dog. A bit random but this is how I met my best friend in the US, people stop you to say hi to the dog, they realise you have an accent, BAM you have a friend date!
Class… ye just talk to the person next to you or something, this one easy. If you really want a good group of course mates you could try doing a few classes with group work too.
Your host Universities should organise events for all their current international students, these will usually be things such as sports games, paintballing and my favourite: free food. This will be the easiest way to meet the aforementioned travel buddies. These events will run throughout the year so its another reason to relax, there is no rush to meet all the international students in the first week.
Walk into random parties and announce to everyone you have no friends. Maybe the announcement isn’t your style, but you get the idea. As an exchange student you will be invited to parties through people you hardly know which lets you meet a load more people. Same goes for sports games etc…
For USA students, frats/ sororities is an easy way to have a huge group of “brothers/sisters” as they say. Can be expensive, can feel like you’re paying for a big group of mates, but you will have a blast, get free food and drink as well as being provided with huge social events- parties, BBQs, sports etc. If you want to dive into a unique part of college culture do it, but personally, I just did the previous method to get a few friends in frats, so I managed to dip my toe into this element of the culture while keeping my pockets out of it.
Okay, these were my top tips for making friends. You may think of a few of them are a bit random but hey, they worked for me. Just relax, making friends can take time, but it will happen!
Just a little note: when meeting new people, you may want to just accept you’re from London now, people don’t know the UK as well as you think.