Photo of a sandy beach by a river. There is a green tree, people sitting on benches and chairs and the sky is a dark blue. It is evening.

The best perk of going on exchange are the friendships

A few blogs ago I talked about how to dare to go on solo adventures while on exchange. While I still stand by the fact that lack of company should not stop you from living your best exchange life, making friends during your limited time abroad might be something you should also consider. Here are my best tips when it comes to finding company in a new city.

1. Erasmus Student Network

As you can probably tell if you’ve read my previous blogs, I am a big fan of the Erasmus Student Network (ESN). I understand that the experience of ESN widely differs across countries, cities and semesters but I strongly advise you to give it a try if you have the possibility. At least one of the events offered should suit you, your budget and your time table. And when it comes to what you should do or how you should show up, there is nothing to worry about! The whole point of ESN is meeting people so just go up to anyone in the group, say hi and you will already have a friend.

2. Choose shared housing

This one can truly be a hit or miss but if you are not a picky person, shared housing almost forces you to interact with people and build connections with them. I’ve had very positive experiences with shared apartments or shared kitchens and met some of my best friends in this context. As long as good communication is established between you and your flat-mates, conflict can be easily avoided and positive connections can be built. But don’t forget it is also your responsibility to maintain this!

3. Make the first move

This one is very scary, I know. But a mistake I often saw others making is just wishing that the world was more like this or more like that but not doing anything about it. Don’t be shy when it comes to making the first move towards a friendship. This means that you could find company anywhere and any time as long as you put in the effort. Have a classmate you would like to get closer to? Ask them to join you for a study session. Have a coworker at your internship that you would like to know better? Suggest a weekend hang out! Have an old acquaintance living in the same city? Reach out, no matter how long it’s been since you last talked. You will be surprised at how willing people are to hang out if given the occasion. And anyway, worst case scenario they kindly decline the offer with a poorly made excuse. 😉

4. Join a society/club

What better way to meet people you will get along with but by joining a society that connects you trough shared interests? The first place to look out for these type of gatherings are on your host university’s web page or social media. If they have affiliated societies they should have some posts describing them and how you could join. You might find that they offer sports classes such as yoga or football. However, if you can’t find anything that tickles your pickle that way, or maybe your university does not have such affiliations, Instagram is the next best place to search. Simply looking up the name of your city and a key word like ”run” or ”pottery” should result in finding pages that have information about events you can join. Otherwise, if you are lucky, you might find some posters around campus about upcoming club events.

4. Keep up the good work

This might sound frustrating, but once you made all of these friends it would be great to actually maintain them. This is easier said than done! Make sure to reach out regularly and don’t wait for the other person to message you first. If you do manage to keep up the good vibes, congratulations! You have now earned yourself a international friend that you can go visit in their home country once your exchange is over. Or, even better, they could come visit you! International friendships are valuable from many points of view, from the cultural exchange to the personal tour guides around the world.

Making friends during your exchange is an enriching and exciting experience that I am hoping you won’t miss out on. Through them, I have learned there are ways of life that I never thought of, traditions that are more similar to mine than I realized and that there are lovely people to be met in all corners of the world. I’d love to hear what your experience with international friendships has been like so don’t hesitate to reach out.

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