After the excitement of choosing a city, organizing visas and flights, checking items off your packing list, and saying goodbye to your family it finally hits you: you’re going overseas and everything is about to change. Including your friends. Yes, that’s right – your friendship circle is about to grow and get a lot more international. Just like school and college, studying abroad is a period made for meeting people – so make the most of it by following these tips.
1. Introduce yourself
First thing’s first: to meet people, you’ve gotta say “hi”! An open smile – the kind you can see in someone’s eyes as well as on their mouth – is an easy way to generate trust when meeting people. Think about it: when have you ever responded negatively to a genuine smile? So go ahead, flash that great smile of yours and say “Hi, I’m _______, how are you?” (or a variation on this greeting – you’ll quickly learn how to do this in the language you are studying!). Of course, depending on where you are, there may be gestures or other greetings used when making introductions. You’ll soon pick these up; whether they be a single kiss on the cheek (in Latin America), kiss on both cheeks (such as those you’ll get in Spain, France, and Italy), a wave or little hug (like most English-speaking countries), or a slight bow (such as in Japan).
2. Join clubs and activities
Do you have a sneaky list of activities you’ve always wanted to do but never made the time for? Good news: now’s the time! Throw away pre-designed ideas of what you like and don’t like, and learn to say “yes” to the chances that come your way. Photography lessons, horseback riding, salsa, hiking, barista or cooking classes – all these and more are fantastic ways to meet other students with similar interests to yours. (Plus, you’ll get to eat anything you make – yum!)
3. Try new sports
Team sports are well-known for building friendships. The feeling of belonging to a club and knowing that your teammates rely on you for practice and competition is motivating, and the experience of working together towards a common goal (pun intended) forges strong, quick connections. Popular sports will vary on where you are studying. Look out for rugby and cricket in Australia, New Zealand, and the U.K.; football in Europe and American football, baseball and basketball in the U.S. (Extra tip: if you try a sport but don’t enjoy it, then choose a team and cheer them on with other students.)
4. Try new hobbies
Hobbies are not just an awesome way to meet new people – they’re also great for relaxing your mind when the semester gets tough. Take time out with yoga, surfing, coding, bread-making, rock-climbing, gardening, calligraphy, tennis, photography, taekwondo, or anything else you can imagine! Check out the activities your school offers or ask other students what they do after class.
5. Live with other students
Sharing a house or apartment with fellow students is one of the best ways there is to meet people: you’ll get instant buddies in your housemates, plus meet their other friends. All this gives you endless excuses for visiting each other’s houses and increasing your social circle even further. Think housewarmings, birthdays, the holidays, potluck dinners, study sessions, and coffee dates in the coolest hangouts in your neighborhood.
6. Remember to stay in touch
Studying abroad is an intense period of growth and change that introduces you to people who will stay with you for the rest of your life. So don’t forget to cultivate these friendships after returning home. It’s never been easier to do this. No more weeks and months waiting for letters – now there’s email, Skype, WhatsApp groups, and a dozen other platforms to use to keep in contact with your new friends. Believe us: 10, 15, even 20 years down the track, you’ll be so happy you did!