(*Note: The article provides tips on how to create and maintain friendships abroad, but considering the pandemic circumstances, some suggestions may not be possible due to the social distancing rules)
One of the most rewarding aspects of spending a semester or your studies abroad is that you’ll inevitably encounter amazing international people either from your class or from random acquaintances. After a while, they will be your new family with whom you can share many valuable moments, yay! And trust me, once you go abroad, there will be numerous opportunities to meet new people with shared interests. As daunting as studying in a foreign country can be, with the right people you’ll make the most of your university experience!
To begin with, at Dutch universities, extracurricular activities are highly valuable, and there are student associations for everyone! By joining a community your chances to meet like-minded students will skyrocket - they usually hold lots of meet-ups and events, during which you can bond together and try new experiences!
Next up, what’s more exciting than living in student accommodation where you can expand your friends’ network immediately? Short-stay rooms in shared apartments are a good starting point and they are usually way easier to find. In their large communal areas, you can hang out with your housemates or host parties! Two tips are to spend less time in your room and open up to new acquaintances by going to gatherings with other students. If we stay within the limits of our comfort zone, we may miss out on exciting moments which always unite people… but make sure you don’t violate the rules of your accommodation.
However, living with other students is not only about partying. Your main priority is studying, and in your dorm, you will surely meet others following the same study as you, with whom you can team up and study together. And while being a social butterfly will win you many friends, sometimes saying “no” is alright, if you’re too overwhelmed with assignments or would like to claim your “me time”. Remember that balance is key, and this applies in friendships as well!
This brings us to another tip, which is to not be shy and reach out to your classmates and peers on social media. Normally there are Facebook groups for your study program where you can meet fellow classmates, or keep yourself updated about upcoming events!
Getting to know new people abroad is so much easier if you keep an open mind, and the sky's the limit for creating new friendships. The question is, how can we maintain them when we return home for a long holiday or after our studies? At some point adulthood can swallow us, and keeping up with these friends can become complicated. But losing close connections is undesirable, so how can we sustain them in the long run?
Luckily, nowadays we might be separated by hundreds or thousands of kilometers, yet still, successfully maintain long-distance friendships by video-calling each other. However, instead of just calling your international friends for a heart-to-heart conversation, why not do your favourite activities together? Friendships are about sharing experiences, and although you are not physically together, they help keep the bond strong. Here are some suggestions for your virtual hangouts:
- Call your yogi friend and share a yoga class online
- Do a home workout together (it is super fun and motivating)
- Choose a book to read with your bookworm and share your thoughts when you complete it
- Start watching TV series or have a movie night together (consider Netflix Party)
- Host a virtual game night
- Cook a tasty meal together
- Sing karaoke together (consider the Smule App)
Of course, calling each other regularly to catch up is paramount, but ensure that you schedule it in advance, so that you stay consistent and not let interrupting schedules get in the way. Sending each other messages is an obvious one, but how about showing appreciation for your friendship and exchanging personalized gifts or postcards? Nothing can beat having a physical letter or a sentimental gift to keep reminding you of your dear friends.
To build upon that, you could print photographs of unforgettable moments you captured, put them in an album, or decorate the walls in your room. This will make you think of your friends even though you are not seeing each other that often.
There are so many options to maintain the friendships that you created while being abroad. If there is a will, there is always a way, and thanks to the hyper-connected world we live in, we can hang out virtually regardless of time zones or distance. You can try some of our suggestions, but don’t limit yourself and be creative! Being physically separated shouldn’t deter you from maintaining your friendships, even the opposite, it proves how strong of a bond you have established.