For many students, one of the most rewarding parts of studying abroad is the chance to make new friends from all over the world. Whether you’re partnering up for a creative school project, exploring the Eternal City together, or taking an Italian cooking class, socializing with people from diverse cultural backgrounds present inspiring opportunities to learn and grow.
But what if you’re a bit shy and aren’t sure how to get started building those new connections?
Follow these three pieces of practical advice to make lasting friendships while you study abroad in Rome.
Join a Club, Sports Team, or Volunteer Organization While You Study Abroad in Italy
The first step to making new friends is placing yourself in situations where you’ll meet like-minded people. There are many opportunities to explore your passions while you study abroad in Italy at John Cabot University.
JCU offers a club, volunteer opportunity or athletic outlet for almost any interest you can imagine!
From fashion to martial arts to finance to women’s leadership, and so much more – joining a group automatically makes you a part of something special. And getting involved in sports can definitely help fast-track your social connections as you battle the competition with your soccer, basketball, volleyball, or cheerleading teammates.
Plus, JCU students are regularly invited to participate in volunteer initiatives in the local community, including projects related to literacy and environmental sustainability. Just take your pick, and begin meeting like-minded people who share your values.
Never Underestimate the Power of the Question
While joining a club or sports team might be the ideal socializing solution for some new students, others prefer the quieter, one-on-one approach. Not everyone is a “joiner.”
For more introverted students, it’s important to remember that Rome wasn’t built in a day, and neither are lasting friendships. However, there are definitely some ways to get the ball rolling, including knowing how to start meaningful conversations that encourage openness and trust.
The next time you encounter someone new in class, or while grabbing a bite at the Tiber Cafe on campus, ask him or her a simple question about themselves. People are generally happy to discuss their own likes and dislikes – in fact, research shows that we spend, on average, 40% of our conversations talking about ourselves!
So questions are an ideal opener and ice-breaker. You could try:
“What degree program are you in?”
“Where are you from…and what made you choose an American university in Rome?”
“What do you think of _____ class?”
‘How are things going with your new roommates?”
“What food is good here?” (of course, everything is great at the Tiber Cafe, but it’s still a great way to get someone talking about their own personal favorites!)
More likely than not, your new acquaintance will ask you a question or two in return. You’ll find out what you have in common, and before long will be sipping a fabulous cappuccino together in one of Trastevere’s many cafes.
Remember that it’s Okay to be Vulnerable
When you’re encountering new people, it’s normal to want to “put your best foot forward” and appear positive and enthusiastic. However, research has shown that demonstrating a certain amount of vulnerability can be much more effective at encouraging openness and trust.
Think about it: constantly pretending to be perfect, happy, totally at ease, and in need of nothing could actually build a wall between you and your peers. Say you’re chatting with a classmate about adjusting to life in Rome. It’s completely ok – and in fact, recommended – to admit that although you’re totally excited to be here, you’re feeling a bit homesick, miss your cat, or aren’t quite sure how you’ll tackle that first big research paper.
No doubt, your honesty will spark similar frankness in your classmate, who will then be inspired to open up about her true feelings. And thus, the seed of future friendship is planted!
Have other tips to share on how international students in Italy can make new friends at university?
Let us know in the comments section!