6 Tips for Making Friends Abroad
Studying abroad is an incredible experience- take the opportunity to meet and connect with people from all over.
Making friends. It’s a daunting task! Even if you’ll only be studying or living abroad for a few short months, the people you surround yourself with will have a large impact on your experience. They can lift you up when you feel homesick, be trusty travel buddies and help make your host area feel like home.
Make Friends Separate from your Program!
Being in a large study abroad program can be GREAT because you practically have instant friends from your own country. You take similar courses, go on the same excursions, live close, etc. There is a support system already there for you. You are all in this together (go wildcats!), and understand each other’s expectations for the semester.
The benefits are obvious, but I strongly urge you to branch out and try to make some foreign friends too! Maybe to your surprise (or at least it was to my surprise), there are more than just students from the US or Canada who study abroad. For example, if you decided to study in Prague, there will be students from Paris, Berlin, Rome, Krakow, etc. who will be there for the semester, too. Making friends with others can give you a chance to learn from a different culture and language which you wouldn’t have before. Plus, who doesn’t want to have friends to visit from all over the world?
Ways to connect:
1. Facebook Groups: Erasmus is the term used for Europeans studying abroad. Join your host city’s Erasmus/International page on Facebook to connect with new people. It’s open to anyone and posts things like free walking tours of the city, special events at clubs, excursions around the area, and much more!
2. Social Events: Make the most of the events that your program or host university set up! Even if it may not be your thing, try something new!
3. Ask your program director about Language Meetups in the area! They’re pretty cool. Often set in a bar or club, everyone who attends the event is given a sticker or badge of the language(s) they speak. You can mingle with new people in a language you know or want to learn.
It’s also a good idea to make friends with the locals, of course! They, more than anything, will be your guide to the city, language and culture. Speaking with a native will teach you more than you’ll ever learn in a language grammar class.
4. Take up a class/hobby: Yoga, boxing, painting, music lessons, ceramics, soccer (futbol-sorry), language classes, cooking- whether it’s a new skill you want to learn or something you’re already interested in, it’s a great way to meet new people. If you’re living in a European city, there will surely be classes taught in English. Or if you’re feeling a lil’ adventurous, take it in the local language to practice your skills.
It’s also a great way to learn more about your host country’s culture and traditions! For example, if you’re going to Andalucia, try your hand (or feet, rather) at Flamenco. Naples is the home to pizza- who wouldn’t want to learn from the masters? If you’re lucky enough to go to Cape Town, try surfing and give yourself an excuse to go to the beach on the weekends.
5. However cheesy it may sound, ask your program director about getting a Host Buddy. Many locals from the area (often students) volunteer to be a Host Buddy. They are obligated to be your friend, so take advantage of it. They may take you out to meet their friends, help you with the language, and show you places around the area that are local gems.
6. Speaking of! Try to go outside the tourist center where you can rely on English being spoken. The majority of locals are probably not (definitely not*) hanging out with their friends in the tourist center. Get out of your comfort zone and explore a different area. Simply walking to a different neighborhood in town can help. But if you want to have a little help, a great resource is Like a Local Guide . Locals basically post their favorite places in their city (restaurants, cafes, clubs, shopping areas, sights). You can create a wish list of sorts and add what may interest you from their tips.
It is totally normal to be worried that you won’t get along with people when you go abroad or you won’t make friends. But you aren’t alone and there are a lot of people who will feel the same as you. Studying abroad is an incredible experience- take the opportunity to meet and connect with people from all over.