Forming friendships

multiple friendly hands meeting at fists


How I made friends as a postgraduate and international student

It’s been 12 years since I first arrived in Australia as an international, postgraduate student. I had no family nor did I know anyone in Adelaide or the rest of South Australia. I only knew two people - one was the contact person within the university’s support services team for international students, and the other person was a current postgraduate from my home country, already living in Adelaide and introduced to me through the uni’s support team (via email, prior to me arriving). I’ll always be thankful for those first two contacts because it really helped having two people I could ask basic questions to.

12 years on, and many of those first friends I made over a decade ago remain very dear friends. We may not always be in constant and regular communication but we’ve always been there for each other through the years after graduation - through job losses and job promotions, through weddings and birthdays and housewarmings, and everything in between. 

Uni and student life was really foundational in helping me create friendships here. Here are a few of the things that led me to meet some of the people who’ve become my family away from home.

Sport -  Having played back home, I joined the university’s soccer team during my first semester. Being part of the soccer team helped me keep an active physical routine while undertaking a postgraduate degree but it also allowed me to have regular social time a few times each week.

Uni clubs. I also joined other clubs of interest, which not only helped me make friends but were also sources of knowledge relating to my degree. The people I met there also became great sources of support.

Attending events. There were many events specifically organised for international students and I enjoyed attending those as it linked me to people who may be going through similar experiences and allowed me to offer my support and friendship too. I also made sure to join any other events organised by the university that were of interest and would occasionally look out for any relevant events organised in my local area. There were so many interesting things to attend - yoga for beginners, poetry reading, surf lessons, beach walks, cultural nights, meditation, concerts, festivals - I had to be careful that I wasn’t using all this time to procrastinate on studying!

Accommodation/housing. I’d never been to Australia before, so I thought the most suitable accommodation for me at the start was one that was walking distance to the uni and one that was referred to by one of the two people I was in contact with before leaving my home country. This worked really well for me since I still had to learn how to take public transport and get around the city. I had a tiny room which was ideal because most of the time I was on campus attending lectures or studying in the library. Hanging around the uni and its surroundings helped me spend time with my cohort but also meet new people in cafes and in the library. Not spending on a car and walking to uni enabled me to save quite a bit of money. In the first 14 months, I had travelled to all the major capital cities in Australia, swam on the Great Barrier Reef, skied on Mt Beauty, saw a platypus in Tasmania, flew across the 12 Apostles in a helicopter, travelled from Cairns all the way to Sydney over four weeks with one backpack, and explored the South Island of New Zealand, among many others. Many of the people I met during these trips (and from hanging around in the uni library) are still good friends of mine to this day. After familiarising myself with the city and forming friendships, I rented a house with three other girls from uni. The house we shared had a wonderful backyard and after spending long days in the library, I knew I would always come home to friends.

The following are a few more things I did that I believe helped me establish new friendships in Adelaide.

  • Hosted meals at home with my housemates.
  • Volunteered my time and experience with organisations such as the Adelaide Dolphin Sanctuary Action Group, Experiencing Marine Sanctuaries and so on.
  • Applied to casual jobs advertised at uni.
  • Applied to internship opportunities. 
  • Studyed in the uni library instead of always just at home.
  • Attended any field excursions or extra-curricular activities offered within my school/faculty/course.
You can’t stay in your corner of the Forest waiting for others to come to you. You have to go to them sometimes.A. Milne, Winnie-the-Pooh


Tagged in what messes with your head, friends, Student life, international student