How to Make Friends in College: A Friendly Guide for International Students

how to make friends in college guide

When I reflect on my time in college, one aspect that stands out as truly invaluable is the friendships I made along the way. While getting my master’s degree in Pennsylvania, I successfully navigated my educational adventure as an international student. Being an overseas learner can feel overwhelming at times, especially when trying to adapt to a new country and culture. But believe me, making friends in college is vital for personal development as well as academic achievement. I’d like to share some tips on how to make friends in college that allowed me to cope with socializing issues and form lasting friendships with my peers.

making friends in college

Navigating College Social Life: Ways to Make Friends

Starting college was a bit daunting for me, especially making new friends and adapting to a different environment. I remember feeling a little insecure for the first few weeks. But I realized that this was normal and decided to take my time and do everything step by step. The main thing is not to be too hard on yourself and remember that everyone else is also going through a similar transition. With patience and an open mind, I gradually overcame these initial socialization difficulties. The most important discovery I made?

Real progress begins when you step outside of your comfort zone.

Because my spoken English was not up to par, I was a bit shy and that didn’t help me at all. So, if you are an international student in a similar situation, learn from my “mistakes” and don’t get hung up on such trivial things. Let others get to know you and become your friends.

Tips for making friends (what you should definitely do):

  • Be approachable and friendly. Smile and make eye contact with others. Sometimes, a simple gesture can make a significant difference in how approachable you appear to others.
  • Attend orientation events. Many colleges organize orientation programs for new students. Take advantage of these opportunities for getting to know those around you and the school better.
  • Utilize social media and online forums. Many colleges have web-based communities and groups on social media for incoming students. Join these platforms to interact with your future classmates and even arrange meetups before the semester begins.
  • Join clubs and organizations. Participating in groups and communities is a great opportunity to meet others who have similar interests to you. Don’t be afraid to explore various clubs until you find the ones that resonate with you the most.
  • Attend social events and meetings. Whether it’s a club fair, a dorm party, or an event on campus, going to these events opens new doors for you. Allow yourself the chance to explore new experiences and interact with diverse groups of individuals; it can be truly enriching.
  • Celebrate and embrace diversity. A student body is a blend of individuals from different countries, cultures, interests, and backgrounds, so take advantage of the opportunity to meet interesting people.

how to make friends at college

  • Participate in group activities. This can be anything from joining a study group to collaborating on a project. Learning together is not only productive but also fun. It will help you develop academically and allow you to make friends with young people who have similar passions and goals.
  • Attend study sessions. Not only it will help you grow academically but also allows you to connect with classmates and your professors on a deeper level.
  • Be patient and give it time. Building meaningful friendships takes time. Don’t be discouraged if you don’t make lifelong friends within the first week. Keep putting yourself out there, and genuine connections will develop naturally.
  • Be yourself. Finally, always remember to be true to yourself. Authenticity attracts genuine friendships, and being yourself is the best way to find friends who appreciate and value you for who you are.

How to Make New Friends: Campus Organizations and Clubs

Joining campus groups and clubs is an excellent opportunity to become active in student life and meet new people. I’ll share with you how I chose those to join at my university. Let this be a kind of roadmap for you. 

As an engineering graduate, I found it enriching to join engineering clubs like the Society of Asian Scientists and Engineers (SASE). Not only did it strengthen my skills, but I also met students like me who are in love with engineering.

The university I attended had a wide array of cultural clubs. I decided to enter the Chinese Student Association and the Asian Pacific Student Coalition to connect with my heritage and celebrate my identity. It was heartwarming to be part of a community that understood and appreciated my cultural background.

Staying active and pursuing your hobbies is essential in college. Since I enjoy playing basketball, I decided to join the Men’s Club Basketball team. It was a fantastic way to continue doing what I loved while staying fit and making new friends.

Being a volunteer can be a deeply fulfilling experience, and at my school, there were plenty of opportunities to give back to the community. It was gratifying to contribute to meaningful causes and make a difference in the lives of other people.

As I started my career in the admissions center, I realized the importance of networking and professional development. Joining professional organizations related to my field, like the National Association for College Admission Counseling (NACAC) and the American Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers (AACRAO), was a smart move. It provided valuable insights and connections that helped me grow in my career.

make a friend in college

How to Make Friend: Campus Resources Are at Your Service!

Steering through my college years was an exciting adventure, but it also came with its fair share of challenges. As a recent graduate, I’d like to stress that it’s incredibly important to build connections during this transformative phase of life. Schools offer a variety of resources to make your life during this period rich and interesting. Do not neglect them under any circumstances. Use them to become a successful student and a happy young adult with a lot of friends. When I talk about how to make friends at college, I can’t help but mention how I made the most of campus resources to connect with others and create meaningful social experiences.

  • Engage with student mentors and advisors

To expand my social circle, I turned to student mentors and advisors who became my guides throughout this journey. These seasoned professionals offered valuable insights into campus life and helped me navigate the college’s social landscape. They were friendly and empathetic, which made it simpler for me to seek guidance on making friends and participating in school events.

Alongside that, academic advisors proved instrumental in helping me choose courses tailored to my interests and goals. As a result of these interactions, I found myself engaging in discussions about clubs and extracurricular activities that resonated with my interests, connecting me with like-minded young minds.

  • Make use of the alumni community and career services

As I proceeded through college, I discovered how important it was to connect to the alumni community and career centers. This was significant not only for future professional opportunities but also for broadening my circle of influence and making friends in college. Networking events organized by the alumni association provided a platform to connect with graduates who shared common backgrounds and career paths. These interactions not only offered career advice but also laid the groundwork for lasting friendships.

When it comes to expanding your circle of peers and forming long-lasting friendships, don’t be afraid to make use of the variety of campus services available to you.

Embracing them can lead to personal growth and meaningful relationships that make your college journey truly memorable and fulfilling.

Building Genuine Friendships

Being from a different cultural background presented both challenges and opportunities in building connections with my peers. One of the key differences I noticed was in communication styles. In China, there is often a strong emphasis on respecting authority and elders, which can sometimes translate to a more reserved approach in social interactions. Initially, this cultural gap made it difficult for me to communicate honestly and boldly with other students. Upon my initial experiences, I quickly realized that remaining authentic and embracing my cultural identity played a crucial role in cultivating sincere relationships.

As a person who has experienced the joys of forming real connections during my college years, I want to share some valuable insights on building genuine friendships. College is a special period in life, full of opportunities to make new friends and form friendships that last a lifetime.

Here are the key factors that have helped me forge meaningful friendships along the way.

  • The power of communication and active listening

Good conversational and listening skills are critical components in developing genuine friendships. I’ve learned that expressing yourself honestly and openly is essential. Don’t be afraid to share your thoughts, feelings, and interests with others. Likewise, be genuinely interested in what your potential friends have to say. Listening carefully to your interlocutor builds trust and demonstrates that you appreciate their viewpoints.

In conversations, I try to ask questions, engage with their responses, and respect their experiences. Being present at the moment and giving my full attention has proven to be a catalyst for deeper connections with others.

  • Supporting others and being supportive

Being a supportive friend is vital in forming lasting bonds. Whenever my friends face challenges or celebrate achievements, I make sure to be there for them. Offering a lending ear, providing encouragement, and celebrating their successes create a sense of trust and solidarity.

It’s equally important to share my struggles and successes with friends. By being vulnerable, I’ve discovered that true friendships are built on mutual support and understanding.

  • Embracing cultural differences and shared experiences

A college campus offers a distinctive and unparalleled opportunity to meet individuals from diverse cultures and possibly differing values, creating a unique experience that may only occur once in a lifetime. I embraced every aspect of this possibility, being open to new experiences, and also sharing my own with others.

Participating in group activities, clubs, and events has allowed me to bond with others who have similar pursuits and values. These shared ventures create a sense of belonging and strengthen the camaraderie among friends.

Forging true friendships requires honesty, attentiveness, support, and acceptance of differences.

By being true to myself and valuing the uniqueness of others, I’ve been lucky enough to find true friends who made my college journey easier and more fun. The college years are a prime time to meet incredible people and make unforgettable memories together. So, be open, be kind, and be yourself – the right friendships will naturally follow.

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Wang Shu Huang
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Wang Shu is a recent graduate currently living in Pennsylvania. He loved his university so much that he continued working there as an assistant in the admissions center. In his spare time, you'll find him planning his next USA discovery trip.
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