6 Ways to Make Local Friends While Studying Abroad

Studying abroad is all about creating memories that will last a lifetime with the incredible people you meet along the way. While making friends abroad can seem nerve-wracking before you go, there’s no need to be nervous, just proactive!

Building local friendships abroad is a great way to immerse yourself in the culture of your host country, and discover the best restaurants, hang-outs, and more by exploring with your new friends. With these six tips, we think you’ll find that making friends abroad is not as difficult as you think, and it’s a heck of a lot of fun, too.

1. Join a Local Club or Sports Team

No matter your interests, there’s plenty of ways to pursue them while studying or interning abroad. Find a local soccer team, participate in a book club, or join your host university’s karate club (IES Abroad alum Thomas S. took up judo while studying abroad in Japan!). By simply doing what you love or picking up a new hobby, you’ll meet local people with the same interests, and that sounds like the start of a beautiful international friendship.

2. Get to Know Your Neighbors

Whether you’re living in a student apartment, residence hall, or homestay, your study abroad housing is a great place to start when it comes to meeting new people. Invite over your neighbors to join you and your roommates for dinner, hang out in the residence hall common space and work on homework with your classmates, or watch a movie with your host sibling. Socialize and build relationships – without even leaving your housing.

3. Become a Regular

Attention all coffee aficionados and dedicated foodies: one of the easiest ways to build your social network while abroad is by doing what you do best – frequenting a local café or restaurant. Not only will your barista likely soon have your drink order memorized, you might just meet other local regulars who can help you discover other awesome cafés in your host city. And, let’s be honest, what’s better to bond about than food?

4. Participate in a Language Exchange Program

Brush up on your language skills and help a local student practice their English by joining a language exchange program at your IES Abroad Center, host university, or other local organization. Take your language exchange out on the town by asking your language partner to show you their favorite restaurants, parks, and hang-outs. You’ll learn the hot spots in your host city and have a brand new friend to explore them with. Just take it from IES Abroad alum Joshua H. – his language exchange partner in Milan invited him to a hot air balloon festival, a rugby team cook-out, and more.

5. Volunteer in Your Community

Make a difference in your local abroad community – and meet new people – by giving your time at an organization, NGO, or school in your host community. You’ll contribute to an important cause, gain a new perspective on the world, and get to know other volunteers who are just as passionate about social issues as you are.

6. Ask Your IES Abroad Center

Don’t be afraid to reach out to the staff at your IES Abroad Center for recommendations on activities, social events, and more. They’re experts on your host city and are always eager to help you feel at home. IES Abroad Santiago connected Andrea R. with a local running group abroad, where she met and bonded with others in the community. With the help of your Center, all you have to do is be bold, put yourself out there, and you’ll assemble a #StudyAbroadSquad in no time.

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