As you read in Part One, I found it somewhat difficult to make new friends while studying abroad in Sydney, Australia. I attribute most of this difficulty to results of the COVID-19 pandemic and its effects on my experience, including the shift to working and going to school online from home.
While online classes and dating/social apps are great methods, I couldn’t help mentioning a couple more that could be a great help to others in this situation.
School Clubs and Societies
Whether academic, sports, and ‘just for fun’ clubs and societies may be affected by COVID-safe measures, they are still a great way to meet people who enjoy doing and discussing similar things. I have been involved with the Sydney Uni Business Society for some time, and even though the on-campus and in-person activities were suspended for a while, it was a great way to stay in touch with fellow students, talk about similar interests, and plan for the future. This semester, we look forward to meeting face-to-face once again! I’ve recently decided to join the kayaking and canoe club as well which I’m sure will connect me to other water lovers.
While these societies and clubs may host primarily group functions, the same methods from online classes can be used- don’t be afraid to initiate conversation with one or two people! While you don’t want to make these group too clique-y or exclusive, it’s a great way to build even stronger friendships with others by making more individual connections.
If you’re passionate about helping others, community service is always a great way to help out. Helping the community is the best excuse for interacting with others. Volunteer to help out with food banks, community outreach, and other activities that go on through even the worst times to make sure the vulnerable communities in your host country still get the help they need. This is a sure way to meet other compassionate and brave people who are some of the best people to befriend.
During my break from uni, international students were offered food packages from the university, and just going to pick them up helped me meet other international students who were grateful for a bit of help. The camaraderie we could have built by assisting with the packing and distribution of these packages is wonderful to imagine, as I’ve been a part of similar initiatives in the past. You can even combine this service with a club or society- for example, I’ve been asked to join an initiative involved with aboriginal and native islander outreach as part of a club that also hosts social activities. This will be a great way to meet others while also helping the community.
My final advice is to not lose motivation. It can be hard to make new friends, especially in a new place a world away, and especially if you are going somewhere with a language barrier or working from home. Difficult, but not impossible. We all have people who are meant to come into our lives at some point or another and teach us things about our world and ourselves, and while it may take some work and time to find them, I trust you will. Best of luck! 🙂