The new school year has started. You’ve taken your first classes and met tons of new classmates. Have you made any new friends?
If you answered “No, I haven’t. I don’t know what to talk to them about!” then you are not alone. Many of the former international students that I’ve met have admitted they didn’t meet any American or foreign friends during their time in the U.S.
That made me remember how all my relationships started with a conversation. The ones that last often begin with the most interesting conversations. When you engage in interesting conversations, your partners will not only have a good time enjoying this beautiful form of human interaction but will also remember you. They might feel that you are relatable and want to maintain their relationship with you.
Pam Atiwan, a Thai student in London who has successfully landed jobs in the U.K., shared that she has been very determined to make friends with people who can speak English with her every day. One of her European friends connected her with his former employer and advocated her skills to the CEO. Eventually, she received a red carpet job interview and an offer without going through the traditional job search process.
It’s crucial for international students like yourself to avoid only making friends with people from your home country. You can meet those people at home. Now that you’re in the U.S., try to meet people who can speak with you in English and engage you in your new culture.
Here are 4 steps that you can take to create enjoyable conversations and make new friends:
1. Make the first move
It may take courage to open a conversation the first few times, but every skill comes with practice. Don’t always wait to be approached. Next time you sit beside someone in class, try a simple comment like “Man, the train was so busy today” or “It’s so nice out.” That classmate might feel grateful that you started the conversation first. If they respond, move on to the next step!
2. Create a few introductions for different scenarios
Think about the places you go: school, cultural events, networking events, parties, and work functions. Prepare an introduction to fit each of these events. If you introduce yourself to a classmate, it’s natural to include your major. If you’re at a party, however, it might be awkward to say which school you go to or what your major is. In that situation, talking about how you were invited to the party might be a better idea. So make sure your introduction is natural and appropriate to the situation.
3. Find common ground
Deep conversations normally happen later, but small talk evolves around simple things like your daily life and interests. Here are three fun things you can use to build common ground with American friends and make yourself comfortable in this new culture: 1. Watch American TV shows on HBO, Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Prime.
2. Do something fun. Take up a new hobby like dancing, kickboxing, or whatever else you enjoy doing. Explore your city or your region. Take this advice from Ibn Battuta: “Traveling — it leaves you speechless then turns you into a storyteller.”
3. Find your next favorite books on goodreads.com, nytimes.com, or other book recommendation websites.
4. Show acknowledgment
Listen well, share comments, and ask questions. Listening attentively helps you discover more topics within the current topic. Don’t be embarrassed if you don’t know a movie that your friends are talking about. Instead, say “That sounds like an intriguing movie,” then ask open-ended questions like “Who are the main actors?” to give the other person a chance to talk more.
When wrapping up your conversation, don’t forget to show your appreciation by saying something like “It was nice to chat with you” or “Thank you for recommending the movie—I’ll check it out!” Exchange contact information if you want to have future conversations with them, and then actually follow up.
Et voila, you have become a better conversationalist and successfully planted the seed of a meaningful connection!
Want to learn more about all the important networking techniques and strategic game plan to help you build a professional network in the US? Check out our program below!