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Awkward conversations and how to overcome them according to int’l students

Trinity College Foundation Studies

Thu Sep 08 2016


STARTING conversations with someone can be tricky, especially if you’re studying abroad alone for the first time! Trinity College Foundation Studies students Toh Miao Juan, Leonardo Vincent and Miaoxin Ouyang speak to fresh students about their experiences so far and offer tips on how to overcome awkward conversations.  

Think back to your first day of school. What was that like? Did you watch people have conversations or did you initiate them yourself?

For international students who’ve just arrived to study abroad, this can be especially challenging. Starting a new life and meeting new people is never easy.

We spoke to a handful of international students, who’ve only been in Melbourne for a short amount of time and have opted to remain anonymous, to share their experiences as freshly arrived students and their own conversation starters.

MN, Philippines, 2 months

I’ve had interesting conversations about food, religion, history and language. All [of the people I spoke with came] from different backgrounds and cultures so there was never a lack of things to talk about.

I would ask about their day and almost always you would get a good response because people were always worried or thinking about something. They might feel appreciated when someone takes the time to ask them about what’s occupying their thoughts.


Illustration by Leonardo Vincent

NK, Thailand, 2 months

My trick is to be humble, praise others and try to understand them. I would start conversations with a smile because it relaxes people.

So far, my experience has been quite good, I think that Trinity students are more friendly than Thai people.

However, sometimes they find it hard to understand what I’m saying. I’m also having difficulty understanding the hidden meaning behind what they are saying.


Illustration by Leonardo Vincent

NA, Indonesia, 2 months

Well I’m a shy person. I usually keep quiet and hope for someone to start a conversation with me first.

If I’m brave enough, I’ll say hi and find out their name and maybe where they are from.


Illustration by Leonardo Vincent

RG, China, 1 month

When I just arrived in Melbourne, I felt a bit scared because it was a totally new world for me. But soon, I found that it was not hard to adapt because I met a lot of lovely friends. [As] a person who is cheerful and lively, it’s not hard [for me] to make new friends.

Although my English is not that good, I can always find interesting topics to start a conversation because I like to share. You could talk about the timetable because it’s a good topic for the first week of school. Don’t be too shy to talk to new people, be brave and confident!

Tips on what you can do

If you’re still struggling with starting conversations or are worried how you might get them rolling, here are some of our own tips to help students figure out what to say when they meet new people for the first time.

Background info

Always good to know more about who you’re talking to! Find out what country they’re from, what they intend to study and what their previous life was like before studying abroad.

Trending topics and current events

Talk about things that everyone else seems to know about or is talking about at that stage. Maybe it’s a new film or a game?

Common interests

If you discover that you share the same interests with someone, emphasise on that. Everyone has some kind of hobby or interest and most people are happy to talk about what makes them happy!


It’s a necessity in life and all students will want to know where to eat in a new city. Talk about the places you’ve tried so far or the places you’d like to visit (maybe they’d like to go to!)

This story was produced by Media and Communication students at Trinity College Foundation Studies as part of Meld’s community newsroom collaboration. Education institutions, student clubs/societies and community groups interested in being involved can get in touch with us via