You see it all the time in films where college and uni kids are surrounded by a flock of friends by their side, but for the most part, many students head to campus on their own.
International students are no different. We arrive in Melbourne by ourselves with the expectation of a fresh start and new folks to hang with, and we think, with thousands of international students enrolling to university study each year, meeting new people and making new friends shouldn’t be so difficult, right?
While this might be true for some, others may find it more challenging to make new friends and have to muster up a bit of courage and effort. This can be hard, especially in those first few weeks when figuring out where classes are and adjusting to life abroad takes priority.
But if you’re needing some encouragement and want to find out how to step out of your comfort zone and find your people, here are some tips on how you can make the most of your social life at uni.
Start early and immediately
The earlier you start, the easier it is to make new friends. If you’re in your first year of university study, you can bet that everyone else in your course is new as well. Figuratively, everyone’s in the same boat which means people are more likely to want to talk to you as well.
Don’t wait around too long and be as proactive as you can. Attending welcoming events like O-Week and club and society barbecues can open up numerous opportunities to mingle with others and find your people.
Having an easygoing attitude and a positive demeanour will help you become more approachable to others.
Be friendly and forthcoming to people with simple gestures like opening the door for others, or starting simple conversations with the person standing beside you as you wait for the doors to your tutorial classroom to open.
In that way, people are more likely to go up and chat with you next time you see each other.
Finding a uni club for you
Everyone wants to feel like they belong to a community and where better than by signing up to a campus club or society. It’s always worth making the most of this by seeing what clubs your campus has and determining which one best suits your interests.
It goes without saying but don’t join something that makes you feel like a fraud. If you’re not into basketball, don’t join that club for the sake of meeting new people.
Meaningful relationships with others come out of a shared passion for a hobby or interest, so know what you’re all about before making the decision to join a club.
Online communities for you
Your life online can be just as important as your offline one. With social media being what it is today, there are many ways to connect with others through online communities of interest. Whether you’re a fan-fic shipper, a sports supporter or someone who loves to create fan-art in your spare time, there’s an online fandom group somewhere waiting for you.
Similar to campus clubs, be open to the idea of joining supportive groups based on your interests. Online communities can be quite powerful and encouraging for many who find it difficult to make friends in person in the first instance, so run searches across your social media profiles to see which groups you want to engage with.
Voluntary work and community engagement
Volunteering offers students a great chance to meet new people outside of uni. In addition to making new friends, it’s also a great way of giving back to the community and getting some work experience at the same time – talk about a hugely beneficial opportunity!
Still feeling overwhelmed? Just remember that you’ve already done the hardest part – which is leaving your ultimate comfort zone of home, family and friends to come to a new country – so don’t stop now! There are many other newly-arrived students probably feeling the same way and are just looking forward to making friends like you are too.
Supported by the City of Melbourne through a community grant, this story is part of a year-long PEER Project which aims to help international students build healthy community, explore and find peer-support on issues around identity and gender, discuss common struggles and stereotypes, and gain the confidence to navigate current and future relationships.