College Tips

How to make friends while studying abroad


The great poet William Butler Yeats once said,

“There are no strangers here; only friends you haven’t yet met.”

As you study in America, you’ll come across many opportunities to meet new people. But will you take advantage of these chances? Yes, you will. Because who are you to disrespect William Butler Yeats? The man won a Nobel Prize for Literature – the least you can do is talk with people in the dining hall.

With that in mind, here are popular tips for making new friends at school.

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Start conversations

If you’re nervous about starting conversations, try coming up with some questions or topics ahead of time. You’ll feel more confident, and eventually you won’t feel anxious at all!

  • “What interests you about _______?” Fill in the blank with the subject of the class you share, the movie someone’s talking about or something else relevant to the moment or person.
  • “What cool stuff have you done lately?” This gives other students a chance to share the things they like. It makes them feel good, it gives you more topics to discuss, and you learn cool stuff you can share with others too.
  • “What’s a popular _______ in America?” For instance, if you love food then you can ask people what are popular foods in America. That lets you learn more about the USA and you get to talk about foods from back home, too.

Be outgoing (maybe more than usual)

Remember that many other students are new too. They want to make friends just like you. They’ll appreciate you taking the initiative, and as you get more confident you’ll find it even easier to start conversations and form friendships.

  • Remember that Americans are outgoing. Typically Americans are open and friendly. If your culture is different, observe the people around you and try acting similarly to see what works and what you’re comfortable with.
  • Take an interest in people. To be interesting, it helps to be interested. Ask questions and actually listen to the answers. Remember what people say and use them as conversation topics later.
  • Look for openings – literally. If a neighbor has his or her door open, stop in and introduce yourself. If there’s an open seat in the dining hall, ask if you can sit and join. Taking the first step makes it a lot easier to find friends.
  • Be inviting. Leave your dorm room door open to encourage others to come in. Make it a rule to invite others to the dining hall, the gym or other social opportunities. You never know when an informal invitation can turn into a long-lasting friendship.

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Photo: Big Jay and Baby Jay in Ellsworth, KU student dormitory, from KU Student Housing

Share what matters to you

Seek out opportunities where you can meet people with similar interests. At the same time, embrace what makes you different so new friends can discover great things about where you’re from.

  • Share your culture and language. Start an “exchange group” with people who want to learn more about where you’re from. You could trade language lessons, try different foods together and recommend movies, songs and books to each other.
  • Volunteer with other people. Find local opportunities to support things you love. For instance, you could find a local animal shelter that needs help and invite some classmates to join you.
  • Check out school organizations. KU has over 600 great student organizations focused on arts, academics, sports, politics and a variety of other interests.
  • Look for flyers around campus. You just might see a sign promoting a fun student club or event for something you like or want to learn more about.

Make life eventful

In general, people don’t go out thinking, “I can’t wait to hide behind some furniture the whole time!” Attending events will help you meet other students, have fun and discover new things.

  • Check out KU’s events calendar. You’ll find lots of interesting events at Rock Chalk Central, from performances to meet-ups to parties. Attend as many as you can to show school spirit and meet cool people. Also, check the KU AAP bulletin↓ on your way to class!
  • Attend sports games. You’ll find interesting sports on campus throughout the school year. Whether you invite people to join you or start chatting with people sitting nearby, you can get to know sports lovers of all kinds.
  • Explore your new home. Organize a trip to check out the KU campus or the city of Lawrence. Invite your neighbors, classmates and people from orientation so you can all discover fun things and have cool stuff to talk about.

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Photo: KU AAP Bulletin



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