When I first moved to Vienna to start studying at Webster I had many questions – How do I register with the city council? How do I get a residence permit? Where will I get my books? What do I need to get a student transport ticket? How will I cook decent food for myself? As I skimmed through the welcome package and did some research I felt relieved to find the answers to these questions. However, there was still one more question on the back of my mind which hadn’t been answered yet and made me feel more worried than all those questions: How will I be able to make friends in a foreign city?
If you are like me and you like to have a clear set of steps on how to get things done when moving to a new city, I’m afraid you won’t find instructions on how to make new friends. But fear not! Looking back on my first year in Vienna, I can now say that there are some simple ways in which you can start making new friends even before you step into the city. Here are some foolproof ways that will give you the opportunity to make new friends and start making Vienna your new home.
Join Facebook Groups and Events
Even before you land in Vienna you can start informing yourself about events and get-togethers where you’ll be able to meet a bunch of new people who are also foreigners in Vienna. By joining Facebook groups such as Expats in Vienna, Women of Vienna (for women only), Erasmus Vienna, and even groups of people from your home country living in Vienna (e.g. U.S. Americans in Vienna, Mexicanos en Viena, Italiani a Viena, etc.) you can already start talking with people living there without having left your home country yet. These groups are the ideal platform to meet other people who are also new in town and are looking for new friends (some people even make posts asking to meet new people!).
Attend Webster Events
As soon as you land in Vienna, you’ll have a set of Webster organized events lined up for you during orientation week. While they are not mandatory (except for the NSO) I highly recommend you attend those events. Whether you are shopping for towels in IKEA, losing your breath while climbing up to the gloriette at Schönbrunn palace, or going to the semester opening party for the first time, you can be assured that you will run into at least a handful of people who are eager to meet other students and in no time you will be making plans for the next weekend.
Keep your Hobbies
If you have an activity you enjoy doing at home, don’t stop doing it when you move to Vienna; having a hobby is gold when moving to a new city! Instead, look for classes, groups, or clubs that might offer that activity you are interested in and there you will find people with whom you can naturally connect with and most likely make a friend or two. If you do not have a hobby but you have always had an interest in an activity, now would be the perfect time to pursue it. A simple google research can help you find the right place to go to, or if you are open to anything and would like to get some ideas for new activities you can go to www.usi.at where you will find more 1,200 courses offered by the University Sports Institute in Vienna.
Whether you like spending time in animal shelters, working with refugees, or participating in interesting events for free, volunteering is an infallible method to meet new people. Talking with people in this setting will be easier since you already know you have a few things in common simply because you are volunteers. Finding out about opportunities to volunteer in Vienna is possible by following the Facebook pages of local organizations that are of interest to you. Through these pages they often make posts about volunteering opportunities for events and activities. You can also check out this page of the city of Vienna where they have a list of the organizations you can volunteer for https://www.wien.gv.at/gesellschaft/ehrenamt/. What is more, by joining our Leadership Certificate Program (LEADS) at Webster you can find out about several volunteering opportunities with different organizations in Vienna.
Join Webster Student Clubs and Organizations
Speaking of LEADS…Webster has several student clubs you can easily join to meet new people such as the Football Club, the Basketball Club, the Board Game Club, the Psychology Club, the Sex and Gender Alliance, and the Spanish Language and Culture Club. By simply joining their respective Facebook groups you can be up to date with their events and you can join at any point throughout the year. Additionally, you can join the Student Government Association (SGA) at Webster Vienna in which you will have the opportunity to meet like-minded people who seek to improve the student experience at Webster. For a full list of clubs and organizations at Webster Vienna, click here: http://webster.ac.at/clubs-and-organizations
Get Out of Your Comfort Zone
One of the most effective methods to make new friends is getting out of your comfort zone and saying ‘yes’ as much as possible. Did someone invite you to the film festival, but you are not a big fan of films? Did someone propose to go to the Danube and have a picnic? Are there cheap opera tickets for tonight but you are not sure you will like it? Just say yes! Even if you are not crazy about a particular event or activity, go anyway if that means you will have the opportunity to meet other students. Sometimes it is not so much about the place or event itself, but about the people you are going with. Plus, you never know, you might end up discovering a new interest or hobby along the way.
Nurture Your New Relationships
Once you’ve found those people that you feel you have connected with, make an effort to reach out first and make time to see them. At times, you will be packed with projects, classes, exams, and other activities that it can be easily forgotten to make time to see friends. But taking some time off between classes to grab a coffee, have lunch, or study together can make a great difference between considering someone a classmate or a close friend.
Welcome the Newbies
When you are already settled and have your own circle of friends, don’t forget that there are new people arriving to Vienna and Webster all the time. Try to be a welcoming person and offer your advice if someone needs help adjusting or has a similar concern as you did when you arrived. This is also a great opportunity to meet even more people and make some new friends.
Of course, there are many more ways to meet new people, what is important is that you face this transitional process with openness, curiosity, willingness to learn from others, and patience. Some people may take a few days, others a few weeks, or months to make friends and it is okay. I can assure you that sooner or later you will have some people that will make you feel at home.