Making new friends may seem daunting, but when you’re living and studying abroad it’s absolutely necessary.

As an international student it’s comparatively easy to make friends with other international students: you’re all in the same situation, nobody knows anyone, you’re all looking to meet new people. While this international student bubble is great—and comforting—you won’t get to experience the other side of life in Australia.

The real reward comes when you make friends with locals. They’ll give you a different perspective on life, show you things you wouldn’t normally see, and overall give you a richer cultural experience to take home.

But how?

This is the tricky bit. How does one make friends? The only real way to do it comes down to you: you’ve got to put yourself out there, say hello, initiate conversation with strangers, find a common ground, and not be afraid to try new things.

One of the best tips is this: if someone asks you to do something, always say “yes”—you never know where it might take you, who you might meet, or what adventures it might lead to.

Where to meet people

It might seem obvious, but as you’re living in a new country, opportunities to meet new people are all around you.

In class

You and your classmates are all there for the same reason, with the same interests, and you see each other every day, so this is the most likely place to make some local friends. Whether it’s chatting to someone while waiting in line for your lecture, or discussing the homework after class, or even sitting in the library working on a group assignment, your class is the best, and easiest, way to make local friends.

Australians are often fairly relaxed people, so don’t be afraid to just say hello, and get chatting.

Read more: Australian Learning Culture

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Student networks

Student networks like student clubs, are just as good as class, if not better. You’ll find people with similar interests, in a similar situation, but with the benefit of not being inside the international student bubble. You’ll be interesting to them, too, as you’ve got a different perspective to offer on a familiar topic. Check with your Student Services, or Union/Guild, as to what clubs are on offer, and how to get in contact with them.

Take a language course

Regular conversations, study, and practice are essential to learning a language, and at university there will be no shortage of English language courses, conversation clubs, and tutors available to you. While your English might already be good, taking a course can only improve things, and has the added benefit of helping you meet new people from the local community. You might become friendly with your teacher, or they might put you in contact with a friend who they think you’ll get along with. At the very least, you’ll sharpen your skills enough that you can go out on your own and start conversations. What have you got to lose?

Find the local hangouts

Find the bars the local students go to, or find out where the best cafes are—to male local friends, you’ve got to hang out at local places. Get advice from your classmates, tutors, and even from the places you already go, and find where the local people hang out. It’ll be uncomfortable at first, sure, but if you step outside your comfort zone, go somewhere new, and strike up a conversation, you never know what might happen.

Read more: Download our city guides

Attend local events

It might be a small gig at the local pub, a fundraising barbecue for the local rugby team, or the night-time markets on a Friday, but getting out there and attending local events ensures you’ll be rubbing shoulders with the locals. You can usually find this information on social media, from flyers on notice boards on campus or at the shops, or from your Local Government Authority’s website or Facebook page.

These types of events are great ways to start a conversation with someone, and the more often you attend similar events, the more often you’ll see the same faces—and they’ll see you. Getting your face out into the local community is a great way to show that you care, and you’re putting in the effort to be a part; locals will respect this, they’ll see you’re interested in their community, and they’ll be willing to talk and help you get involved.

For a unique local experience see the Welcome Dinner Project, connecting locals and new arrivals around a dinner table.

Join a sports club

This one’s obvious, but it’s a good one, as Australians are pretty keen on their sports. A local sports team allows you to meet and bond with a group of people regularly, and the shared love of playing the game, whatever it might be, makes things a lot easier. If you’re keen on cricket, you’re curious about Aussie Rules, or you’re thinking about giving badminton a try, you’ll always be able to find sports teams in your local area that are looking for new members.

Read more: Sport in Your City

Use your interests

Whether you’re into music, skateboarding, knitting, Dungeons & Dragons, coffee, or anything else, no matter what you’re in to, this gives you something to talk about with people. So use it. Go to the local music shop and talk guitars with the salespeople, chat to your local barista about how they make their coffee, find a knitting group to take part in, or head to the local Games Workshop and see if you can join in on a game—find where you fit in, and start a conversation. It’s much easier than striking up a conversation at a bar, or at a bus stop, as you’ll have a solid conversation topic and shared interest.
The bottom line though is that it’s down to you. You’ve got to be the one to step outside your comfort zone, initiate conversation, and get to know people. Being interested in other people will make them interested in you.

So what are you waiting for? Get out there, go where the locals go, and meet some new—local—friends!