MOST international students in Australia are interested in making local friends, but not all of them think it’s easy for a variety of reasons. Trinity College Foundation Studies students Jessica Lourens and Jen Nguyen speak to local and international students and offer advice on how everyone can become friends.
Before even arriving in Australia, many international students are promised by agents and universities that they’ll integrate well into Australian culture and make many new friends with local students but this isn’t the case for most. As reality would have it, one of the most frequent problems that many international students experience when they arrive for study in Australia is how well they’ll integrate into the community and into the country’s culture.
Malaysian student Andrea, studying at Trinity College Foundation Studies (TCFS), said she does not have any Australian friends as she is surrounded by overseas students at her college. She does however say that she would love to make local friends when she gets in University. Another TCFS student, Maria, echoes Andrea’s feelings and wants “to understand more about Australian culture”.
“Australian people have very different backgrounds and ways of thinking, which I [am very] interested in [learning more] out,” Maria said.
Despite the good intentions of some international students, however, not all are as confident about their chances of making friends with domestic students. Fern, a TCFS student from Singapore, said he “[doesn’t] think it’s going to be easy to make local friends, because international students tend to stick with their own friends from their countries”. He also feels the same applies to Australian students. Meanwhile, Chinese student Mei Li feels the language barrier makes it hard for international students to have Australian friends. While it may be difficult for overseas students to befriend locals, it’s not entirely impossible says TCFS student Alejandro.
“It’s not easy, but with a little effort and the right approach, you could definitely have a lot of local friends,” Alejandro said.
With all this in mind, we’ve compiled a list of ways international students can confidently approach local students and potentially become friends with them.
Given the western perspectives of Australian students, it’s important for international students from Asian regions – where the majority of Australia’s international students come from – to keep an open mind when it comes to approaching locals.
Try not to judge, but to understand the different attitudes and ways of thinking. Comprehension makes for the best friendships!
To make friends with locals, you need to be willing to interact with them. Join clubs and other social activities, where you can meet Australian students. Nathan, President of International Vietnamese Students at the University of Melbourne (IVSUM) said, “Clubs and activities are great chances to meet and make new friends, including locals. I met some of my best local friends this way”.
Find out what local students are interested in.
Having common interests makes it easier to start a conversation. Thea, a Vietnamese student was fortunate enough to have went to high school in Australia and finds it much easier to make local friends at university.
Based on Thea’s experiences, we felt that by engaging with Australian movies and TV shows, being familiar with local celebrities or picking a footy team to support, international students could better understand what local students are interested in, thus making it easier to be friends with them.
This is the most important thing. To be able to make local friends, you need to be confident being around them. Lauren, an Aussie student, highlighted that local students have the same fear and anxiety of making new friends.
“A lot of us grow up going to school with the same people and not being used to having friends from different countries, so we also tend to stick with our old groups of friends,” Lauren said.
On the other hand, many Australian students also have a big interest in having international friends. Emma, a Melbourne University student who hails from Sydney, says “a lot of Aussies want to learn Asian languages such as Mandarin or Bahasa” and that “having friends from Asian countries is a big plus” for those looking to polish up on their language skills.