As an introvert or a shy extrovert, it is hard to make new friends, especially in a foreign country. Not just acquaintances whom you can have shallow conversations with. I mean true friends whom you can share the highs and lows of life with. If you are finding the task of making solid friends difficult, I hope these tips help you.
- Don’t get caught in the comfort of routine. As humans, we crave stability so getting into a routine of school, work, and home can be tempting. But if you truly want to build relationships with people, you have to be willing to change your plans. For instance, maybe there’s a group of students who study in the library together every Thursday night. To join them, you’d have to disrupt the comforts of your daily routine at home. Or maybe you won’t even be able to go back to your dorm or apartment at all until after the study group. It may disrupt your routine, but if you count the cost, it is worth it to learn with your peers and make connections with them.
- Be bold and courageous. It is hard to be the new person; to feel like people see you as an outsider. It is easy to get stuck thinking that the Americans around you should be more welcoming and hospitable. You can’t let other people’s unfriendliness or insecurities stop you from making friends. As I said before, we humans get caught up in routines and sometimes those routines can be the people we spend time with. We focus on this one group and forget that there are potential friends everywhere around us. We are often interested in meeting new people; we just don’t know how to begin. So if you are bold – if you take the first step, start the conversation, sit down in the empty seat – your efforts will pay off.
- Find a home away from home. My faith is important to me, so when I was in a new country, I wanted to find a church to be a part of. When I say “church,” I don’t mean just a building. I mean a group of people who learn together, grow together and live life together. A group of people who eat together, who laugh together and, yes, even cry together. Maybe you have faith in something or maybe you’re looking for something to put your faith in. Whatever the case may be, I encourage you to find a community where you can feel like you are home, even when you are far away.
- Start or join a group. Building relationships is sometimes easier when you can come together around a common task, rather than just walking up to someone and starting a conversation. We are all good at something or interested in something. For me, the interest I had was writing. I wanted to meet like-minded people who wanted to write and encourage others to do the same. So I created a writing group on the student page at my university and set up a time to meet those who were interested at a local café. After my year was over, though I hadn’t written anything very substantial, I did gain 3 good friends. They have broadened my horizons and I feel connected to them even now when we are half a world apart.
What tips do you have for making new friends? Share with us!