Have you found the nearest Tesco’s yet? Do you know how to navigate around town? How was Fresher’s Week? You’ve missed a video call home already, haven’t you? Still jet-lagged?
All these questions are probably in your head, and then some. I don’t ask them to stress you out; just to set the scene for where an American student is at this point in the semester. It’s also occurred to you that, while it’s nice to have flatmates (roommates in American-ese) and you’ll probably find a few friends in your course, that at the moment you might feel adrift.
Fear not. It can take few weeks, or months, to build a friendship that will last throughout your studies and for the rest of your life. The good news is that building solid friendship always takes times, and the quality is worth the time.
While I quickly settled into a routine of watching Great British Bake Off (colloquially known as Bake Off), or listening Sir David Attenborough explain the wonders of the sea in Blue Planet with my flatmates, I didn’t necessarily feel settled. However, I have a couple of ideas you can try that helped me get to that point, which might help you as well!
1. Girl’s night, which one of my lovely flatmates started. A chance for us to go out, dress nice and enjoy a dinner, movie, or whatever else together. It was easy enough to make a group chat for us ladies in the flat, called ‘The Best’ because obviously, and we’d try to go out together or plan a viewing of Legally Blonde every couple of weeks.
2. Flat dinners, seriously. If you find a recipe for Brussel sprout sliders with brie and an onion chutney, see who wants to try them (they’re delicious). Invite someone from across the hall. Food is possibly the best way to bring people together. We had a great ‘Friendsgiving’ for Thanksgiving, and while there was some banter over why American has a holiday just for food, the fifteen people or so gathered together felt a lot like family. Big meals are also a great antidote to homesickness. Even though that happened in November, one of the Americans who helped me plan it became a great friend, who I still chat with weekly!
3. Joining a club, which I talked about in a previous post, is a wonderful way to connect. It also takes you outside of your course and led to friendships you didn’t expect. Try something new, that’s what this whole ‘abroad’ thing about!
4. (More of a tip!) Don’t be afraid to ask first. While it may seem awkward, sending a message to someone you’ve only talked to a few times, getting two or three people together for a campus event (keep an eye on those!), gives you a chance to chat without the pressure. Having people over for dinner, or going to a birthday party in your building, can be stressful because it’s a closed environment. Outings, to nearby attractions, or that new restaurant, or, if you’re lucky enough to live by the shore like I did in Aberystwyth, a sunset walk, can offer some structure without being constraining.
Living in another country can be incredibly stressful, and for the first month or two, you might feel like you have a lot of sort-of friends, or course mates you’ve studied with, or a handful of people you run into a lot on campus. It may seem like you don’t have solid, reliable friends yet.
That’s okay. Give it time.
Send that message. Plan that movie night. Ask if anyone has ever had pecan pie around Thanksgiving, and offer to pull out a family recipe if you’ve got one. The important thing to remember is that you have a whole year, or more!, ahead of you. It’s okay to feel homesick or lonely, the best friendships will happen in time. And you’ll probably still be sending memes to each other long after you leave the UK. I know I still do.
If you would like to find out more about studying in the UK, please contact us using the form opposite.