The essential guide to making friends when you study abroad
Being a new-comer can be nerve-wracking… but don’t worry! On campus, you’ll find lots of students who feel the same as you – local students moving away from their family for the first time, as well as international students who are new to the country too.
Here are 5 essential tips on making friends:
Join student social groups
“I found that the best way to make friends was to get involved with your university; student organisations, events, extensive orientation programmes, and activities. Through those initial weeks, there were many great opportunities to meet with new and existing students, while learning about student traditions, culture, and what to expect from your time in that country. Meeting new friends has been one of the core benefits of studying at a different university, especially given the diversity of international students at the University of Helsinki. Through these connections, my understanding of others has changed significantly, and certainly for the better!”
Morgan Walker from Australia, studying a Master’s of Social Sciences, Social Psychology at the University of Helsinki
Most universities and colleges in Europe offer a wide range of activities to help you feel at home. In your first week, you’ll usually find a welcome party for all students, plus guided tours of your campus and city. Most campuses have lively Student Unions too offering parties, film nights, excursions and more throughout the year. Taking part is a great way to make friends with students from all around the world.
Start a new hobby!
“Going abroad is a great time to make friends with people who have different lives and backgrounds than you. You learn a lot about yourself when getting to know people from different places. If you are genuinely interested in getting to know new and different people, they’ll be just as interested in getting to know you too.”
Jason Dydynski from the USA, studying a Master’s in Semiotics at the University of Tartu in Estonia
Want to try drama, mountaineering or sculpture? How about volleyball, photography or chess? Getting involved in a new hobby is a fantastic way to make friends who share your interests. Most campuses in Europe have lots of sport, art and hobby groups for students. They are usually free of charge, or very cheap, to join too! Have a look on campus to see what is on offer. If you can’t find what you want, why not start your own club?
Get to know your fellow housemates
“When you study abroad, it is comforting to make friends with other students from your country – but it is really rewarding to make friends with people from different countries too.
The most important thing to understand is that YOU have to make the first step. It’s a good idea to share accommodation with students from different backgrounds and nationalities. This is not only a cheaper housing option, but you can also make friends outside your academic programmes”
Attila Ákos Szabó from Hungary. Teacher at the University of Huddersfield in the UK
Many students in Europe live in accommodation provided by the university or college. Most accommodation has communal areas, such as a lounge, dining hall or kitchen, where you can chat with your fellow housemates. Living together, you will get to know each other well – but to help break the ice, why not suggest having coffee or cooking a meal together?
Get to know people in the local community
As well as meeting your fellow students, it’s great to get to know people in your local community. Towns across Europe typically have lots of social clubs that anyone can join – choirs, orchestras, cycling groups, football clubs, dance classes and more. You may also find social clubs linked to various interests – for example a vegetarian club, an LGBT social club, or faith-based groups linked to churches, mosques, temples and synagogues. Have a look on the town hall noticeboard or online to see what is on offer.
Smile and be proactive!
“Making friends with people across the globe opens up a whole new world of perspectives, lifestyles, ideas and possibilities. Not only do we learn more about ourselves and others, but by coming together, we become the co-creators of a new culture that goes beyond states and borders. Every single day, at home or at work, I am a little bit of every single friend I made during my Erasmus Mundus programme. And whenever I hear from my friends living all over the world, I am reminded that anything is possible.”
Marija Mitic from Serbia, Project Officer at the Academic Cooperation Association in Belgium
The best way to make friends is simply to smile and get chatting! After class, why not start a conversation with the person next to you? Or in your campus cafe, why not ask other students for advice about the local area? Before you know it, you will have made lots of friends. We hope you have a great experience.