There are a plethora of things to think about when starting your study abroad adventure. One aspect that can weigh on the mind of students is if, and how they will make friends. I studied abroad in Ireland, and I met students from around the world who were in the same boat as me and quite nervous in the beginning. I can safely say that the thought of making friends is admittedly one of the top worries students carry.

Stop worrying! If there is another thing I learned it is that this is a needless worry. We all find our niche eventually, and making friends happens naturally. Here are some things to keep in mind that will make meeting people easier.

Accommodation

There are a lot of accommodation options available to you when you study abroad. On campus, off campus, in a house or apartment, renting a room or even looking into nearby hotels can be an option. The most invaluable piece of advice I can give you, is to take advantage of on campus living. This decision changed the entire course of my study abroad experience and made it one of the best times of my life.

It can be nerve racking, deciding to live with strangers. But living with other students not only makes room for friendships, it also gives you the opportunity to explore and get to know the campus and meet other students who live in the area. You may find yourself meeting other students through association and widening your circle of friends. I met lifelong friends through a housemate of mine and got to experience the country in ways I never thought would be accessible. I got to know their families and was given an invaluable insight into the Irish culture. Living with other students can be the best thing to do to enhance your study abroad experience.

Classes

Another way to meet friends? Classes. Here you will find people who you see almost every day and that share the same academic challenges as you. You will find that you lean on each other for support and guidance. Sharing classes means you also share homework and projects. During my time abroad a common thing for students to do was form study groups. You will find that strong friendships can be formed by sharing your academic strengths, weaknesses, hopes and fears.

Extracurricular Activities

You can also meet friends if you put in a little effort and dabble in extracurricular activities. Student organisations are a great way of meeting people that share the same interests as you. Do you love art? Join the art organisation and you will find that it is very easy to form bonds when you have something in common with someone. This is a great ice breaker for those who may be a bit nervous about meeting other students.

Volunteer groups are also an option! Many colleges hold events like fundraisers and extracurricular activities that require volunteer help. Not only will you meet people here who have, like you, volunteered their time, this can also help make you more familiar with your campus. Being involved in groups like this can break open your shell, stretch your comfort zone, and make you grow as a person.

Exposing yourself to new situations (hey you are traveling to a different country!) is a sure way to gain invaluable friendships. Some will last as long as you are abroad, some will last a lifetime. Give yourself the opportunity to be open to others and your new situation. Do this, and you will most certainly make memorable and once in a lifetime friendships.

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About the Writer: Merette Kennedy is an American writer and avid book lover. As a former international student, she completed her Masters Degree in Comparative Literature and Cultural Studies from the University of Limerick in Ireland. She is currently residing in Boston, Massachusetts, and is in the process of completing her first fiction-based novel.