Student guide: How to make friends in the US

Jun 21, 2024

US Shortcuts

The opportunity to study in the US is an exciting time, but it can also be nerve-wracking to establish a friend circle in a new country where you’re faced with unfamiliar customs. Gaining new friends is important for building confidence, developing a healthy personal well-being, and embracing new cultures.

If you find this challenging, this article will help you navigate the US social landscape, make friends, and build lasting relationships.

Get Involved on Campus

One of the best ways to make friends as an international student in the US is to get involved on campus. By participating in the many activities and joining groups, you can meet people with interests such as yours, enhance your college experience, and create a supportive network. Here are some key ways to get involved:

Join Clubs and Organizations

Joining clubs and organizations is one of the best ways to gain friends while in school. It allows you to meet people with similar interests while also engaging in activities that you will enjoy doing with your friends. This also will help develop your leadership and teamwork skills.

You can find these clubs by checking out the university's student organization directory, and club fairs held at the beginning of the semester, or by asking your peers and professors for recommendations.

Examples

Note: These clubs are examples only and may operate under different names at each university.

  • Community Service clubs (Youth Education & Mentoring Programs, Student Volunteer Club).
  • Academic clubs (Debate Club, Science Society, Psi Chi & Psychology Club, American Society of Interior Designers).
  • Recreation and Sports clubs (Soccer Club, Swing Dance Society, Paintball Club).
  • Cultural Clubs (Organization of Latinx American Students, American Indian Science and Engineering Society)

Tips

When you decide what clubs you want to join, find out when and how frequently they meet. You'll want to choose a club that is separate from your class schedule. Being able to show up to meetings regularly is important if you want to meet new people.

Comparing to Different Countries

When we compare this to other countries, like India and China, clubs may be more academically focused, with fewer sports and recreation clubs, while US clubs often emphasize diverse interests, making them a great way for socialization beyond the four corners of the classroom.

Attend Campus Events

Attending campus events is a great way to gain new acquaintances. These events provide you with the opportunity to socialize in an environment that you can be comfortable with. Additionally, it helps you learn more about the campus culture and community, allowing you to adjust yourself faster to your new environment.

Keep updated with campus events by checking the university’s event calendar, following the university's social media accounts, or even joining mailing lists or newsletters for event updates.

Examples

  • Social events (acquaintance parties, cultural festivals).
  • Academic events (guest lectures, symposiums).
  • Sports events (university sports matches, intramural leagues).

Tips

To help you prepare for attending these events, check the venue ahead of time so you'll know where to go and not have to worry about getting there late or getting lost. Depending on the event type, you can find photos of past events on the organizer's social media accounts. This will enable you to get a sense of what to expect and how to dress.

Leveraging Online Communities

In today’s times, technology has been evolving to the point where we can seamlessly connect with anyone around the world. This makes it one of the easiest ways for you to gain new friends during your stay in the US.

Join Social Media Groups

A popular way to connect with peers from your university is to join university-specific groups on platforms like Facebook to get in touch with other students. You can also participate in online discussions on platforms like Discord, search for events by using Meetup, Eventbrite, and Luma, or join virtual meetups like Zoom calls so the community can recognize you. Moreover, you can also look up social media groups ahead of time, if you're reading this before arriving in the US.

Participate in Academic and Interest-Based Forums

You can use platforms like Reddit and Slack to connect with individuals that share your interests. If you prefer sports, then there are plenty of subreddits on Reddit that cater to different sports. If you’re more interested in historical facts and information, you can always join forums that talk about specific topics that pique your interest.

Doing so will help you meet new colleagues who are always ready to listen to everything you want to share with them, thus gaining new friends.

Comparing to Different Countries

Social media is heavily popular and utilized nowadays in the whole world for forming connections. Almost everyone has their own social media accounts, allowing for more possibilities in connecting with other people. 

In China, apps like WeChat are the go-to apps for personalized interaction between users, similar to WhatsApp in the US. Another popular app among Chinese citizens is Weibo, considered the Twitter of China, students can have a good idea by using Twitter if they already have Weibo accounts before moving.

Cultural Exchange Activities

One of the best ways to connect with new people is through appreciating and understanding the cultural differences of each individual. Learn to understand the different norms of the persons you meet while sharing your culture with others as well. This results in a mutual appreciation between different cultures, thus gaining new friendships while in the US.

Share Your Culture

When you share your culture with other people, it allows other people to see your cultural norms and what makes your country unique to others. This results in an understanding of appreciation between different cultures, allowing you to make new friends. 

Examples

  • Some of the best ways to share your culture is by hosting cultural nights or events to share your traditions and food. 
  • You can also participate in international student festivals and fairs if your campus is organizing one.

Learn Local Customs

Not only should you share your culture, but you should also learn and appreciate US cultural norms to fully appreciate the country where you’re planning to study. Be open to learning and respecting American social norms and etiquette and engage in conversations about cultural differences and similarities. 

This will help you adjust to the country’s culture, allowing you to build confidence in making friends.

Comparing to Different Countries

Cultural exchange is highly valued in countries like the UK, where Indian students are also known to consider studying there, sharing traditions can be a way to bond. By showcasing your culture and learning about others, you can create meaningful connections and friendships.

Volunteer and Work Opportunities

Students looking for part-time jobs or volunteer work are common in the US. Plenty of students want to earn some extra money while studying to further support their education or save up to buy their wants. Not only that, this allows you to meet new people and colleagues, gaining new friends in the process. 

Aside from part-time jobs, volunteer work is also a popular campus activity where you can meet new people who share your interests and passion for working for the community.

On-Campus Volunteering

You can volunteer for university events and community service projects to meet new people and give back to the community. Moreover, this enables you to meet new people who you can consider to be colleagues, forming a bond with them and becoming friends eventually.

Part-Time Jobs

Working part-time not only provides you with extra money, it also helps you gain new friends. When working on-campus or outside the campus, it can help you meet new people with whom you can work together with. This is a common way for students to make new friends, especially with how much you see each other during a workday.

Be Proactive and Open-Minded

This is one important tip that you should remember. It is completely normal at the start for you to feel hesitant and shy in your new environment, especially in a new country. But as time passes, learn to start conversations and think ahead on ways how you can gain new friends. 

Learn to understand that to make new friends, you have to take risks. Your time studying in the US will be more memorable if you share it with people you consider friends.

Initiate Conversations

During your first weeks as an international student, try to initiate conversations to give an impression of being a friendly and approachable person to your peers. Doing this will give you a strong chance to gain new friends as you journey through your higher education years.

Examples

  • Start conversations with classmates and dorm mates about shared interests or talk about class experiences.
  • Use ice-breaking strategies like discussing favorite hobbies, sports, video games, or thoughts on current events.

Step Out of Your Comfort Zone

This may sound challenging for some, especially for an introverted or shy person. Stepping out of your comfort zone is the best way you can gain new friends. Being able to have the courage to interact with other people will help you with your self-esteem, along with meeting new people as well.

Examples

  • Have the courage to do new activities that you haven’t done and experiences to meet different people.
  • Consider joining opportunities that push you to interact with others, such as joining a new club or attending a different event.

In conclusion, when you make friends in the US, it is always an exciting but challenging part of an international student’s life. Understandably, you might struggle in your first weeks due to the contrast of cultures and personalities, but this is just a step-by-step process. When you finally start to join clubs, be active on social media, take part-time jobs, or even volunteer work, you will start to step out of your comfort zone and have the confidence to meet new people. Make your college life more memorable by sharing moments with your new friends.

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