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How to make friends at university in the UK

Studying abroad at a UK university is a unique time in your life. You’ll have the chance to meet people from all around the world, make lasting friends that will enrich your life, and network with other people who will be working in your field in the future.  

At first, some international students struggle to meet people and make friends at university. It can be intimidating to put yourself out there when you’re adjusting to a new environment. But, it’s important to make the most of social opportunities that come your way. 

So, let’s take a look at some tips and tricks that will teach you how to make friends at university in the UK:  

1. Attend freshers week events 

Freshers week is often where students make their university friends. So, what is freshers week? Well, universities often organize events in the first week of term, specifically for first-year students. These events are referred to as freshers week because they’re aimed at “freshers” - students who are starting their first year of university.  

Some examples of freshers week activities include: 

  • Student club and society fairs 

  • Concerts and live music 

  • Sports games

  • Club nights and parties

  • Campus tours 

  • Team building activities

  • Barbecues, lunches, and dinners 

These kinds of events and parties are great places to get to know other students. Most first-year students don’t know many people, and everyone is keen to make friends! So, even if freshers events might take you out of your comfort zone, make an effort to attend a few and put yourself out there. 

2. Join university clubs and student societies 

Despite how you might feel, you’re not the only one wondering how to make friends at university. There are lots of other students looking to meet like-minded people, and one of the best ways to find them is by joining university clubs and student societies.  

University clubs and societies are fantastic ways to make friends because they’re free, lots of fun, and bring people with common interests together. Most universities have a wide variety of clubs, so there’s something for everyone. Some examples include: 

  • Sports and recreational clubs

  • Political clubs

  • Cultural clubs

  • Performing and visual arts societies

  • Religious and spiritual groups 

  • Academic club

  • Volunteering and community service initiatives

  • Social justice and activism societies  

3. Say yes to invitations 

When you get started at a new university, you’ll probably receive invitations to campus events, student parties, academic meetings, and even personal gatherings.  

Even though it might seem intimidating to attend events like these alone or without knowing anyone, we’d encourage you to say yes to any invitation you receive. You’ve got nothing to lose - and you never know where you’ll meet a new friend or have an interesting new experience.  

4. Spend time in communal areas 

Sometimes meeting new people is a simple matter of spending time in communal areas, and university campuses are full of them.  

If you live on campus, your student residence will likely have a common living room. If you spend some of your free time there, you’ll be more likely to cross paths with new people and have the opportunity to strike up a conversation.  

If you don’t live on campus, there are still plenty of common areas to explore. For instance, try hanging out in dining areas, student union buildings, and libraries.  

5. Learn how to make small talk 

Small talk refers to a polite conversation with people you don’t really know. So, being able to make small talk is an important step in meeting people and making friends. But if English isn’t your mother tongue, it might be difficult to feel confident when meeting new people in the UK.  

A great way to surpass this obstacle is by practicing how to make small talk in English. That way, you’ll feel better prepared when you find yourself in a social situation with lots of people you don’t know.  

The unwritten rules around small talk can vary in each culture. In Britain, it’s considered polite to ask people questions about themselves, as long as they’re not too personal. Good questions to ask people are:  

  • Where are you from?  

  • What are you studying?  

  • Do you live in halls?

  • Have you joined the student union?

  • Are you in any student clubs?  

It can feel very difficult to start a conversation with someone you don’t know. But small talk is like any skill - the more you do it, the easier it becomes!  

6. Pair up with a classmate for social events 

If you feel nervous or shy about attending social events by yourself, why not pair up with a classmate or friend and go together? You’ll feel a lot more confident entering a new social situation if you’ve got someone familiar by your side.  

Once you start meeting a couple of new people, you’ll quickly learn which students are in a similar situation to you. They might be other international students, or maybe they’ve traveled from another city to attend university. In any case, they will want to make friends too, and they’ll probably appreciate an invitation! 

7. Host a potluck dinner with other international students 

 

It’s usually easy to connect with other international students. After all, you’re all far away from home and getting used to a new environment in a foreign country. 

A fun way to get to know other international students is by organizing a potluck dinner. In case you don’t know, a potluck dinner is a meal where each guest brings a dish of their choice to share. This is a great activity because it gives everyone the chance to try new foods from different countries. And there’s lots to talk about as you discuss the dishes and swap recipes!  

Live and study in the UK with PTE Academic 

All in all, studying in the UK can be a fantastic opportunity for international students to expand their academic horizons and make meaningful friendships along the way.  

If you’ve ever dreamed of living and studying in the United Kingdom, PTE Academic can help you achieve your goals. PTE Academic is recognized by the UK Home Office, can be used for your student visa, and is accepted by 99% of UK universities.