How To Make Friends With Locals When Studying Abroad

Being all alone in a new city, living by yourself and attending a new university can make all of us feel like freshmen. The excitement and anxiety that appears when approaching the first classes and the hope to make the friends that will help to make your experience abroad even more amazing is something that all of us that have gone on an exchange experience know very well.

Even though looking back at my first day, I smile at my excited little self, it can get hard to make friends, let alone make friends that are not on exchange themselves. But the best way to really learn about the country you decided to spend your time in is to have contact with natives, learn about their traditions and all the little things they seem to do differently than you.

One of my missions was to not only attend all of the ERASMUS events, getting to know people from all over the world, but also to get to know real Italians whilst on my exchange in Milan, Italy.

So here are a few tips to master the art of making native friends during your student exchange.

1. Attend the events for exchange students.

Yes, you read right. Even though it might seem striking to attend the events, where you will most likely not find any natives, it still has a lot of advantages.

First, you will get to know some of the student hangouts, so that when someone says, “Let’s go to Le Banque tonight,” you do not dress up for a nice picnic on a park bench, but instead get out your dopiest high-heels or do not wear bermudas (in case you are male, even though bermudas are never really the best thing to opt for).

Plus, you will make some friends, have some drinks and laughs and not feel utterly alone in the new world that you just arrived in. Most of the coordinators are also more than willing to give you tips and tricks to find your way around the new city, so that’s already a triple plus for you.

2. Make the first step.

Did you know that many native students actually think international students prefer to hang out with other international students? And that international students do not care a lot about grades or the university they are enrolled at? Well, prove them wrong!

Make the first step and ask if that seat next to the clique in the first row is still free. Smile at them and start a conversation. Believe me 99% of all people respond more than positively to a smile and a little joke, so you will be engaged in a conversation and learn from them in no time.

Not the extrovert kind of person? Ask them about the university, the course or the professor. Keep talking and be open and you will have exchanged numbers and social media platforms by the end of your first lesson.

3. Engage in students associations.

Not only is engaging in associations offered by your overseas university a major plus on your resume, but it will also help you to get to know people. Are you studying economy in an Italian city? Find an Art’s student that will give you the best tips on museums and cultural events, so that you will make a great tour guide for when your friends or family want to visit you.

Most of the universities also offer language courses, whether it is the native language of the country that you are staying in or one’s you’ve had your eye on for ages (like those Scandinavian languages). Go for it! A language courses always open new friendship doors – plus, you’re continuing to learn!

4. Don’t wait for friendships to happen.

So you exchanged numbers or your social media handle with that nice girl sitting next to you in class? Ask her if she wants to join you for that cool exhibition you wanted to see! Or invite her to go to have some sushi or burgers with you and your new made exchange friends.

Everybody feels flattered to get asked out and, in return, they will ask you out to have drinks or to go to “Le Banque” with their group of friends, even if they might be busy on the date that you asked them out. So, don’t wait for anybody to ask you because you are new. If someone seems interesting and nice, try to spend time with them and everything else will fall into place.

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Avin Fakour

Travel, experience, love, repeat. As a third year Business Law Student enrolled in Cologne School of Applied Sciences in Germany I am currently studying abroad at the Bocconi University in Milan, Italy and have a huge passion for all kinds of sports, beautiful nature, books, old libraries, travel, art and fashion.

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