Most students study abroad with the intent of making new friends and immersing themselves in a new culture and new community. However, many students end up forming a group with other students from their home country and not making the most of the brilliant opportunity they have. The first thing to do when you decide to study abroad is to work on gaining self confidence, and read some news reports on the country you are going too. Give yourself some background knowledge and something to talk about. Then, make sure you know enough of the language to have conversations with others.
When you reach your destination country, remember that you are going to have to put effort into making friends. Local students may seem standoffish, but are probably just waiting for you to break the ice. The first group of students to start with is other international students studying with you. These are students in your situation, and will want to make friends too. You can make a variety of friends from different countries in this way, and find people to socialise with and practise the country’s language with.
Next, don’t presume that orientation seminars or ice breaker events are pointless, as they are there to help you make friends. Activities such as sticking your name to your head or talking about yourself for two minutes may seem daunting, but will help you make global friendships. Attend a few, and you’ll make many friends in a very easy way. Universities hold these events to encourage everyone to make friends, and they are usually tried and tested methods.
If you want to make friends with locals, you will then need to arrange social gatherings outside of university time. Make sure you are always safe and that somebody knows where you are; make sure you aren’t wandering alone, and take money and a map. Go to different surroundings, and see who you’ll meet there. You might meet friends in malls or clubs, or less obvious places such as coffee shops. Remember that as long as you are friendly and polite most people will respond positively to you, and try talking to different groups of people. Local teenagers will know the best places to hang out, but local adults will know where to get cheap or fresh food, and where student deals are available. However, make sure that you know the customs of the local area, and try not to offend anyone. Watch what you wear and say, and if you are somewhere with strong beliefs, then you should adhere to them. Cover yourself up if necessary, or take off your jewellery. If you meet a special someone, keep public displays to a minimum and research the local laws for your area. In some countries, kissing outside can gain you a caution! Your university should have information on the area if you need some, or try Googling it. You will struggle to make friends if you don’t appear to respect the country’s boundaries.
Finally, there is nothing wrong with becoming friends with other people from your home country, but don’t limit yourself. While you will probably become best friends with someone who is at your Uni, you will miss out on a lot of the pleasures of being a student studying abroad if you don’t make the most of the social opportunities it gives you. Remember to use your language skills, take photos and make friends, and you’ll have a brilliant time.