Making friends with people from another country sometimes might not feel easy sometimes. After all, Australia has a different culture to many countries, and even if you speak English, Australia has its own dialect or slang. And it can seem easier to make friends with other international students because everyone meets each other in the international students’ orientation week or in ESL classes.
But it’s not too hard to make Aussie friends. After all, Australia is a very multicultural nation already – StudyInAustralia.gov.au says 47% of “Aussies” were born in another country or their parents were born in another country. So Aussies are used to seeing people of different races and making friends with them in school or at work.
Here’s why making local friends will help you enjoy your time in Australia, and how to begin making friends.
Why making Australian friends is important
The main reason why it is important to make friends with local Australians, not just international students, is that it will help you feel less lonely. Local friends can help you:
- Understand Australian culture and have less culture shock
- Have a friendship group to hang out with on the weekend
- Find fun things to do around the city
- Feel less homesick
- Feel more motivated to study hard and succeed
A study by the University of Melbourne (2007) showed that international students who make friends with local students are happier and healthier. They experienced less culture shock, felt less homesick, and felt more “adjusted” to Australian culture, than international students who did not have local friends.
The study pointed out that it is normal for international students to experience different types of loneliness, and that these types of loneliness don’t happen as much when you make friends:
- Personal loneliness: Your family are far away in another country.
- Social loneliness: Your normal network of friends is not there with you, and they may be difficult to stay in touch with.
- Cultural loneliness: You may miss the culture and language you are familiar with at home.
This is not just true in Australia. An international study by the International Graduate Insight Group surveyed 60,000 international students in Australia, the USA and Britain. This study showed that international students who made local friends were more satisfied with how much they had learned, their university, and their education experience overall.
1. Join a Social Club or Volunteer
Join a social sports club or another club, or volunteer at an organisation like the campus library. This means you already have something in common with the people there, because you are all in the same club or organisation. Some universities have a heap of clubs and soceities you can join who offer lots of social events!
2. Go to Orientation Week
Go to Orientation Week, even if you already went to the special orientation week for international students. There’s often a lot of events hosted during the week by the university or by other clubs and societies.
3. Talk to your classmates before of after class
Talk to your classmates before and after class. Before class, you can often start a conversation by asking someone what they did on the weekend. After class, you can ask a classmate about the meaning of a word the tutor used if you were uncertain. You could also ask them to go to lunch with you, grab a tea or coffee, or study together.
4. Watch Australian TV & talk to classmates about it
Watch Australian TV or ask your classmates what they watch on Netflix. Watching the shows that locals watch will give you something to talk about with your classmates.
5. Discuss culture
Talk about any differences in culture you see between your home country and Australia that makes Australians look good. Australian locals love to hear that people enjoy visiting Australia and also like learning about different cultures. You are unique!
6. Teach Australians some of your language
Teach your Aussie friends a few words in your home language so that they can feel like they are fitting in with your culture as well. Because Australians are famous for travelling, many Australians enjoy learning new languages (you could even teach them the wrong words!)
7. Join a International Friendship Program
Many universities have an International Friendship program that you can join in order to meet Australians who are especially interested in making multicultural friends. Foreign students come from all different parts of the world so you won’t be alone!
For more ways to make friends, read the Study In Australia.gov.au website’s guide to studying in Australia.
If you feel homesick or you need help adjusting to Australian culture and making friends, talk to an international student advisor or another teacher at your university or college. They will be happy to talk with you and help you. In the Australian culture, we believe it is not shameful to ask for help when you need it. Find out more about Australian Culture & Student Life.