Ten Ways to Make International Friends
As you might all know by now, I am a traveller and I have been moving every few years mostly to study in different countries. Chasing degrees has been my "career" for the past decade *MashAllah*. It is always difficult in the beginning to make new friends and connection. I know that scary feeling of being the lonely outsider too well. The past year and a half I decided that I want my London experience to be filled with lots of new friends to enjoy my time better. I found few places and activities that will guarantee you to meet new people. The rest depends on you and your social skills. Hope you find these tips useful!
1- Religious Communities
I usually try and find a religious community in my case a Muslim one and I just go mingle. The first few times is usually uneventful because people are in their own little circles, but if you keep going and starting conversations, you will end up getting to know some people that you share the same faith with and that's a strong bound. So, if you are into your religion or semi into it, checkout the relevant religious place. I know many people who made friends from Quran/Bible studies.
2- Professional Networking through university/work events
Most universities have associations and groups that you can sign up for. Sign up and volunteer don't be a silent participant or that will lead you no where. Choose a group you are interested in. I was part of the Muslim Students Association in Arizona State University and that was such a great time. I also checked out other groups like the yoga ones and etc. Each group had a different bunch of people. If you are not in university anymore and working, try to find work or professional associations. For example, I signed up at the British Institute of Interior Design. They have a number of events. Most fields have similar organisations, where they host events. they are a good way to meet likeminded professionals.
3- Classes and Workshops
My favourite thing to do in my free time is to attend workshops and classes. I am such an education junkie. Being in London makes this a very easy thing because there are always creative classes and workshops to go to in local colleges, cultural/religious organisations and independent studios. The ones I attended, I just found on google. I made at least one friend in each class and workshop I attended. It is nice to say hi to people around and to ask why they are doing the course. You never know, you might hit it off and do more classes together.
4- Social Media
This age of social media is a wonderful one. I know many complain that if we stop staring at our phones, we might find friends in real life, but I disagree. Social media could be a great source of friendships especially when you are travelling. In my solo trip to Spain and Moroco last year, I met a bunch of people from Instagram alone! I would post a picture of where I was and say that I spent the day there and some of the followers would message me saying they are already there and we would just meet up! I basically met someone new in every place I went to in Spain. I was very thrilled with all the connections. Next time, you go somewhere new, do an Instagram or twitter shout out or comment on people's pictures who are living in that area. All you need is one nice compliment and a place suggestion.
Another thing, there are many dedicated social groups on Facebook related to specific faiths, interests, activities and cities. I went to many interesting events that I simply found on Facebook, so take a look there too!
If you are a professional, then get the conference ball rolling. I am just starting to do this. In the last conference I attended in Kuwait, Benchmark 2015, I made a new friend and that made the whole day much more fun! It was lunch time and there was a live music performance. I was standing beside a lady who looked lovely. First, I commented on the performance and complimented her very cute outfit. Then I asked casually if she wanted to grab lunch. While we were talking we found out that we had a bunch of friends in common from the states! That just proved to me how tiny this world really is. My next conference is Blogtacular and I can't wait to see all the friends that I will *hopefully* make.
6- Friends of friends
Ask your friends if they have any friends or family in the country you are heading to. You never know who they are connected to. You can even ask the new friends you make to introduce you to some of their friends and connections. When I met my friend Alimah from Four Corner Interiors Ltd, she was kind enough to introduce me to lots of her friends that became my friends as well. An easy way to do this is posting on Facebook telling your friends that you are headed to a new place and you need to meet new people and see what you can do. Sometimes all you need to do is just ask and hope for the best.
7- Craft Circles/Groups and Etsy Teams
When I was in Manchester, I used to go to a weekly knitting group in the neighbourhood and it was such a great creative outlet full of making, talking and eating cakes. When I came to London, I got in touch with a few crafty group, but I did not find any around my area, but it's a great idea to meet crafty buddies. Another thing is Etsy teams. If you are on Etsy selling or even just buying you can be part of the many teams in there. Some of them arrange meet ups. You can even suggest one and see who can turn up.
8- Language Partners
One of the first friends I made when I moved to the states was my language partner. I was still learning English and I joined the language partner club and I got paired with the nicest girl who was interested in learning Arabic. After that, we became really good friends in the time I was there and she introduced me to her big family and lots of other people. So, if you are leaning a new language, seek out a partner and it might lead to lots of friendships! :)
9- Networking Platforms
Thankfully there are more networking platforms these days such as InterNations, Couch Surfing and Meetup. I haven't tried any, but I heard really good things about them from friends who tried them and mingled with other participants. I checked some of the events those platforms offer and it seems like there is something for everyone. It is always worth checking out.
10- Start a convo with a random stranger
Because why not! I am not always brave to do this, but sometimes in the right frame it could work. For example, the person next to you on a long train/plane journey. I made few plane friends through the years that I am still in touch with them. Plus, it could turn out to be fun!
These are only of the few ways I found useful to make friends. To keep those friends, all you got to do is stay in touch and keep planning activities with them. Don't just wait to be invited, but initiate plans! :) Please feel free to share your tips and tricks in the comments below.