In 2014, I packed my belongings in a suitcase and flew across the Timor Sea to kick off my one and a half year long study experience in Sydney, Australia. As a young uni student moving abroad for a significant amount of time, I was worried. I had never lived away from my family, so I was worried about feeling homesick. I had lived in my bubble of comfort and familiarity for most of my life, so I was worried about potentially not ‘fitting in’ in the Aussie culture. And what about friends? I was leaving childhood mates and school friends who had known me for years, and we all know starting over is not easy (especially as an introvert).
Despite the challenging start, I was determined to make the most of my time as a student in Sydney. One way to do that was to put myself out there and make friends. These tips I’m sharing with you have helped me with my confidence in meeting people in a new country, which have also assisted in building the friendships I have today. I hope you find them helpful too.
1. GET TO KNOW THE PEOPLE AROUND YOU
Moving to a new town/city/country in itself requires a lot of courage, so don’t feel the need to have besties right away. Start small by getting to know your housemates and neighbours. Rather than waiting for an event or reason to get to know your housemate or neighbour, I’ve personally found it helpful to simply invite them for a meal to get to know them! Hanging out one-on-one with a new friend can be a little nerve-wracking, so feel free to throw a potluck party and invite a few people over!
2. JOIN THE TOURISTS TO GET TO KNOW YOUR NEW CITY
Most cities welcome flocks of tourists throughout the year, so you will find lots of fun activities such as walking tours, cooking classes, watersport activities, etc. taking place in your new city. These are a great way to help you meet other travellers and new migrants to the city like yourself!
3. FIND A LOCAL CLUB FOR AN ACTIVITY/SPORT YOU ENJOY
What was your favourite pastime back home? Whether it’s practicing yoga, making pottery, painting, swimming at your local pool, surfing, or running, I want to encourage you to seek out local clubs to join to keep your passion for the sport/activity AND meet others who share the same passion too. Having a place to meet and an activity to do on a regular basis creates consistency for the friendship.
4. JOIN LOCAL FACEBOOK GROUPS TO MEET OTHER EXPATS
Moving to a new country or city can feel very foreign if you have never done this before, and although I tried not to stick to other Malaysians/Southeast Asians when I moved to Sydney, having friends with similar backgrounds in a foreign country was very helpful, especially on days I felt homesick. An easy way to meet other expats is by joining local expat groups on Facebook or LinkedIn! Not only is this a great way to make friends, but you’ll hear about job opportunities, exciting local events, and have some of your questions about the local culture answered too!
5. BE YOURSELF AND SPREAD KINDNESS
This last tip is a no-brainer, but possibly the most important tip of all when it comes to building friendships (and being a human being in general). It’s easy to join different groups and try new activities to meet new people, but genuine kindness is what will cause others to be drawn to you, and subsequently become your friend. Making friends can be quite challenging, especially when everyone’s already got their set of friends. However, do not let that stop you from finding your community of friends because that will only make your experience overseas 150% better!
Hello! I'm Veronica Lew, AIM Overseas' Senior Content Coordinator. I have the privilege of meeting and chatting to AIM Overseas participants and university partners while creating fun and valuable content for our online platforms. When not working, you will most likely find me at the Pilates studio or the gym, catching up on my favourite YouTubers' vlogs with a cuppa coffee in hand, or going for long walks with my husband.