One of my favourite parts about studying in the UK is meeting other international students. And while it’s absolutely important to make friends with locals, I find that international students tend to gravitate towards one another. Here are a few reasons why.
Me with an international friend in Rotterdam, Netherlands
They want the same things as you
International students are more likely to be looking for the same experience as you. They’ll probably be more interested in travelling on study breaks and exploring the city where you live. There are so many opportunities for travelling around the UK and Europe, and I’ve found that it’s usually international friends that are up for these trips. It makes for a different university experience when you haven’t grown up in the country and you have a limited time to enjoy it. If there’s a cool event or pub to visit, international students don’t always have the luxury of saying “I’ll go next time”. We tend to make the most of the time we do have.
The Cereal Killer Cafe - a very cool spot in London
You have different nationalities, but you probably have similar personalities
Despite being from different backgrounds, you and your international friends probably have compatible personalities. It takes a certain type of person to pick up and move to a new continent. You’re probably adventurous, independent, and interested in the world. Of course, every international student is unique, but having those qualities in common can lead to a quick friendship. You will probably find yourself gravitating towards these peers because you have similar ways of seeing the world. You’d be surprised at how many barriers you can overcome when you have a shared love of travel.
The Swedish cake my international friends baked for me on my birthday
You become a family
There’s a special bond that forms when you are so far away from home. Your family might be many time zones away and not awake to answer a call when you need them. You’re away for holidays and birthdays, and your mom isn’t around to make you soup when you inevitably get sick. Your fellow international students are in the same boat. They become your family when you don’t have your own close by. Together, you bake cakes on birthdays and cook Thanksgiving meals. You become a strong support system, and you understand each other’s struggles. It makes for a very special relationship.
Reading break in Sardinia, Italy
It’s hard to leave, but you form lasting international bonds
It’s not always easy. Despite all the fun, time abroad doesn’t last forever; it’s an incredibly unique experience to make close bonds and then months or years later, go in different directions home to entirely different countries. It’s bittersweet to build a support system and then later have that support be accessible only by skype.
But it’s worth it. When you make friends with international students, you gain couches to sleep on all over the world. You learn about new cultures, foods to eat, and languages. You learn to associate places in the world with the people that you’ve met – a magical thing that can crush stereotypes and make you a more compassionate and understanding world citizen.
Before I moved to the UK to do my law degree, I studied abroad for a year during my undergraduate degree. Although that experience was several years ago now, I still talk to the international friends I made every single day. When I spent the summer backpacking, I planned my route to stop in all the countries where I could visit friends. International connections have brought me to small villages and big cities that I would never have expected to visit. And because neither one of you is from the country where you studied, you can spend hours reminiscing on the places you miss.
Ultimately, international students are the people who truly understand the experience that you’ve had, long after you left.
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