Written by Mariam Devadze
Although, I talk mostly about my Italian experience, I think some of the tips could apply to many other international students.
Finishing High School and saying farewell to my friends who stayed in another country was quite challenging for me. But, what worried me the most that summer was my fear of not finding any friends and feeling lonely and homesick. However, during my first year of studies, I met many wonderful and truly amazing people, who inspired me, helped me to get through my hard times, and gave me great friendships.
But, let me get straight to the main point: making friends is not an easy task. However, you can always manage to leave your comfort zone and meet new people. Most of them you might not meet again, some of them you will meet, and a select few will remain your friends.
So how do we do this? Where can we find these new people? Let’s get started from the time you get accepted to university:
- Reach out on social media
I know many of you use social media and there are also some of you who detest it, but let’s be real, it’s a great way to find people who will study at the same university as you and will be living in the same city as you. You can find people from your country, your future-to-be classmates, or possible roommates in many different Facebook groups.
I met a girl from India through the Facebook group of our University. We chatted for a while and then met in Milan for the first time. Well, guess who I am sharing a room with now! Chat with people, follow them on social media, find people with common interests, and ask questions! But beware, you always need to use precautions before meeting people online. Do not meet people you find suspicious in isolated locations!
- Be active during your orientation events
I know most of us are very shy when we see a large group of people and it is quite overwhelming, but remember everyone there is new, and everyone is looking for friends just like you. Talk with people, share your experiences, talk with other people who seem shy. People who are shy at first always end up being the loud ones (talking form experience). My personal trick to meet those people again is to ask for a number or Facebook contact information, to organize another meeting or just to see how their experience is going. I guess at this point I will seem to you like a social media addict, but I’m not. Honestly!
- Check out all extra-curricular activities
Just like in high-school, extra-curricular activities offer the chance to meet people outside your classroom and get to know those with common interests. You can meet many foreigners or locals and have fun doing random activities and joining random circles of people. It’s also a good way to check out new locations for your group of friends. Also, don’t go alone! Invite people you just met. It’s a great way to spend time together and have a good time. There are always other events in the city and university, so always be on the lookout for them.
As my dear friend Lucrezia just suggested to me, if you are a student you do not always need to be studying. You can go running in the park. Perhaps you will see potential friend material on your way to a healthier lifestyle. I could not agree more to this. You can find friends in the most unexpected ways, in the most unexpected places.
Find student organizations that operate in your university or even city and join them. This will help you to develop teamwork skills, but also to see new faces and share ideas.
- Remember that is not the quantity that matters but the quality
I would not say be selective, since it sounds more like deciding who is a better option. Just try to see who you are happier with and with whom you can spend both your dark and bright days. Having a support system is a very important thing in a new place. Also, don’t forget about your old friends. Try to keep in touch with them. You might be having different experiences, but sharing them will be of great help, and also offer a different perspective.
- My last suggestion: ALWAYS BE YOURSELF!
Yes, I know you have heard this one many times before. But, admit it! You still forget to do it. People will adore you for who you are and if they do not, then you are not hanging out with the right people (or you are Joffrey from Game of Thrones). I think during my university studies was when I realized the importance of this point the most. So, good luck on your new journey and I hope this article will help you along the way!