College can be a scary place whether you attend a small private school or a large university. Making friends in this new environment can be overwhelming, especially for those who come from a foreign country. English not being your mother tongue can also lead you to being shy when approaching other people. If you grew up in a rather small town where everyone knows each other and you never had to make much of an effort to meet new folks can also throw you off a little when going overseas for the first time. However, with a little work you’ll be hanging out with people and making friends in no time!
One of the best ways to make new friends is to join a club or an organization. Do you love music or play an instrument? Mix with a group of like minded people and maybe even join a band or choir. Participate in sports or some other activities that you like and have maybe even done before college – Sports are a great way to meet new people because you all have a common goal. Whatever it is that interests you, you will have no trouble finding a group or organization, either on or off campus, that you can join and enjoy. Once you are a member, join group activities and volunteer to help. You will get to know others while doing good. Club activities easily turn into social activities and you’ll find yourself going to the movies or for a bite to eat with fellow members.
You will soon discover that college is full of diversity. This includes people from different religions, cultures and ethnicities. And although there are so many differences, a smile means the same to everybody. So go ahead and start with one of the easiest things you can do: smile 🙂 You will become more approachable to others and people will want to get to know you. Who doesn’t like to surround themselves with happy and positive people?! Be proactive and go ahead and talk to people. Don’t be shy, everyone is in the same boat and would love to make new friends.
If you are living in a smaller school, you can meet people off campus and in the community. Go downtown and explore what the city has to offer. Go to events in and outside school. Ask class mates to join you to see the school’s football game, go and enjoy concerts, go ice-skating, go for coffees – just make sure you get out. When you grab food in the dining hall, do not sit by yourself. Go out and sit with someone who is sitting alone. If you already have a group you’re sitting with, ask someone who is sitting alone to join you. You never know if that person will become your next best friend. (This actually happened to me in my first year of college – and now I’m in that person’s wedding party!) Also, don’t do your homework in your dorm room or apartment. Go to the library, coffee shops, and ask others to do homework together, build study groups and bring cupcakes! Be creative and be yourself, just remember you cannot make friends by sitting alone in your bedroom.
Especially during the first week of school, other than orientation week events, your housing area will likely have some welcome parties planned. Go to those parties and mingle. Start up a random conversation with someone by complimenting their outfit, asking what they’re planning to major in, how they spent their summer, etc. During the school year you will be asked to go to all kinds of events, trips, parties, coffees, you name it. Even if you’re not into dancing, go to the club (only if you feel comfortable with the person who asked you of course!). If you’re invited to a trip, may it be a short ride to the nearby mall, or a weekend getaway to the beach or to hike a mountain – GO and DO it! Do not say no because you are tired, feel shy, or simply “don’t feel like it” right now. Trust me, you will regret it. Those events are key to bonding with other people and making lifelong friends. You will always have a shared experience that you will talk with them about forever. I’m emphasizing this point so much because I learned the hard way. I got asked to go out and said “no thank you” on two occasions, making up an excuse just because I felt like staying in, watching a movie and eating pizza. Well, the consequence was that I missed out on the bonding experiences the group had and I was never able to make up for lost time and become a real part of that group. Don’t give up.
Always keep in mind that you are not the only one who is starting a new phase of their life, in a completely different environment. There will be many moments of awkwardness and it’s not always going to be easy, but remember to smile, get out there, say Yes and never give up!