Gearing up for a travel program abroad—like studying, volunteering, interning, or teaching? Then you’re probably on a natural high, super geeked your upcoming overseas excursions. However, chances are, you’re also stressing how to make friends while traveling. After all, your closest compadres will be staying back home.
Traveling abroad may sound like you’ll have to start from scratch with finding a new social circle. It doesn’t have to be so don't freak out. One of the perks of a meaningful travel program is that you already are likely to have built-in community. Whew emoji! But, if you’re feeling like you’re not connecting to your group, want to connect with more locals, or simply love having a wide circle of friends, there are simple steps you can take before and during your travel program abroad to create your new crew.
Silently freaking out inside how to make friends while traveling abroad? It’s not as stressful as it sounds, though it will take some courage and a definite willingness to put yourself out there. Read on, these tips on making friends while traveling are for you!
First: Why building a travel community is important
You really can't go wrong when it comes to making friends abroad. They will invite you to hip get togethers. Or, they might even be your alibi as you explain to prof why you’re late to class. A few good peeps will make your travel abroad that much sweeter. Here are some of the goodies you can expect from friendships overseas.
- Deeper immersion into the local culture. Want to really get to know your new country? Becoming friends with locals is your in. They will be your VIP pass to the best spots for grub, coolest events, and even help you learn the language. See why you gotta know how to make friends while traveling?
- Minimal loneliness. At some point, those travel abroad lonely feels might creep up on you. However, a good set of friends will keep those homesickness blues to a minimum. Whether its inviting you on a weekend camping trip or being an endless source of bear hugs, a circle of travel abroad friends does a body good.
- Lifelong friendships. Friendships made overseas tend to become lifetime relationships. There’s just something special making friends abroad in a foreign country or with people from a totally different culture. These unique circumstances are the stuff quality friendships are made of. Even after your time overseas has finished, you will take home a few lifelong bonds from your travel abroad friends.
- A depth of experience. The places you see, foods you eat, and streets you walk will eventually fade into memory—but the friends made while traveling are the stuff of decades. When you look back on your time abroad, you’ll be thankful you figured out how to make friends while traveling (and will love catching up and swapping “Remember when” stories with them for years to come!).
9 strategies for making friends while traveling
So how do you find your ace boon coon while traveling abroad? Where can you locate your posse? A proactive and open-minded approach will help you find your road dogs and you’ll be socializing in no time. Here’s how to make friends while traveling abroad like a pro.
1. Attend travel abroad program and/or school events.
Just like back home, your young professional or college life overseas will be brimming with happening events to hit up. Insightful panel discussions, documentary screenings, homecoming games... there won’t be a shortage of places to meet new faces. The more social activities you attend the more people you will meet.
One of the perks of travel abroad programs is the instant travel community at your fingertips. But it will only be a true benefit if you take advantage of the opportunities to socialize and connect with the other awesome participants on your program!
2. Follow online communities.
With social media, you can easily make friends abroad online. Nowadays, you can search for Facebook groups affiliated with your travel abroad program’s university or established networks. Your teaching placement program may have a Youtube channel or Twitter page where you can easily engage with other participants (old and new). This is an easy peasy way to connect with other travelers and start meeting folks!
Where you can make friends abroad online:
- Join school or travel abroad affiliated Facebook groups.
- Participate in Twitter chats with your school or program.
- Introduce yourself in online groups and forums for expats in the country you’re traveling abroad in.
- Find and join make friends abroad chat groups on platforms like WhatsApp.
Word of advice making friends online: Sadly, everyone on the internet does not have the best intentions. Plenty of weirdos on the interwebs are not who they say they are. The last thing you want is to get catfished abroad. Even apps to meet friends in a new city can be dicey. You should be cautious meeting people in person who you’ve only met online. Meeting and hanging out in busy and public places are a safer approach. However, social events organized by official school Facebook groups and pages are generally safe bets.
3. Join school or local clubs.
Have an uncanny obsession with paleontology? Join the university fossil society. Sleep with your beloved saxophone next to you in bed every night? Try out for the school band! School and local clubs are one of the best resources for how to make friends abroad. As a young traveler abroad, these clubs can be a great way to find your tribe.
4. Go on optional excursions.
Volunteer, internship, and study abroad programs often organize optional excursions for participants to go on. Looking to make friends? Don't pass these trips up! Sometimes what seems like a lame event can be a blast and a goldmine of new friendships.
5. Connect with other program participants in advance.
You can start making your travel community before you arrive in country! Get a head start and ask your program advisors to connect you with to get you with current and former travel abroad alumni. They could probably even set you up with a pre-travel abroad pen pal. Introduce yourself over Skype or email and let folks know when you’ll be arriving. By the time you start your travel abroad, you'll already have friends to link up with.
6. Host an event.
Your apartment is AMAZING and it’s time you show it off. If you’ve already made a few friends and feel like making even more, host an event. Tell your friends to bring their friends. Then invite the bunch to see a movie or have a study group or picnic. It doesn't have to be fancy—something as simple as a Sunday afternoon study group on the yard could do!
7. Join community groups.
Making friends while traveling abroad doesn't have to end on campus or within the confines of your program. You can meet tons of new people by getting involved with off campus organizations. Join a church, volunteer with a local animal shelter, or attend a U.S. embassy event. These are really awesome ways to mingle and get deeper immersed into the local community.
8. Bum around the hostel.
If your program has you lodging in a community-oriented spot like a backpacker’s hostel, you’re in for a treat! Most folks who pass through these establishments are on the hunt for a good conversation or a new travel buddy. Just hang out in the common areas and you’ll be finding common ground with the others in there before you know it.
This can be an especially helpful tip if you’re trying to figure out how to make friends while traveling solo.
9. Be brave.
Most of us haven’t tried making friends—actual friends—since the playground in elementary school. It’s not as easy as it sounds, and requires quite a degree of bravery to make the “first move.” You must be willing to put yourself out there and pray your confidence carries you through those first awkward seconds of introducing yourself to a stranger. Once that’s behind you, though, there’s plenty of time to take selfies and make new memories—together as friends.
You’ll be laughing together that awkward first encounter in no time!
Making friends abroad is worth the effort
And just like that, you can craft a tight circle of travel abroad friends. No more mystery how to make friends while traveling. Now, remember, making good friends isn’t necessarily an overnight process. Sure, you might hit it off and find your travel abroad day one right away. However, don’t feel down if you don’t make a bunch of friends abroad instantaneously. Just like freshman year, finding your peeps takes time and the process can be jagged.
So what do you do when you’re struggling with how to make friends while traveling? Don’t give up and become a recluse. Just be patient, keep an open mind, and keep making a genuine effort. You’ll be rollin’ with the homies and making friends abroad before you know it.