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Finding friends as an international student

Written by: UPSU

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Understanding the barriers international students face when trying to make friends at university:

We understand that there may be certain barriers to finding friends and forming connections with new people as an international student, compared to UK students. These barriers may include, but are not excluded to:


1. Language barriers

Language barriers may occour if English is not someone's first language, however, more often it is less about English not being a first language and more so the many different aspects of the English langauge that can be challenging to navigate as an international student. This includes regional dialects, slang words, and colloquialisms which many international students will not be familiar with through no fault of their own. 

2. Cultural barriers

Sometimes international students can find it challenging to make friends as a result of cultural differences. At university, often one of the biggest cultural differences can be seen in the way people choose to socialise, with alcohol frequently being at the centre of British student socialising. 

3. Different wellbeing issues

Many international students studying in the UK will have moved to the country by themselves, meaning they are a long way away from familiar friends and family members. This can present obvious wellbeing challenges such as difficulties adapting to an entirely new surrounding and lifestyle, as well as feelings of anxiety and loneliness. International students may feel they are alone with what they are experiencing and how they are feeling in comparison to their peers who lived in the UK before starting their university journey. 


As your Students’ Union, we exist to represent you, to help you to campaign for your unmet needs, and to reflect and celebrate the rich diversity of our student community. Our spaces, services, activities, and representatives help support students to build meaningful connections with others around shared interests, experiences, and identities. 

We pride ourselves on providing an inclusive environment to help create a sense of belonging in our student community.

We, alongside the University of Plymouth, have worked hard to ensure we offer a variety of different ways to meet new people and form meaningful connections at university as an international student. 



1. International Student Meet Ups

Join your SU President, Tonari Arikekpar, in the SU Lounge every Thursday evening to make new friends, share experiences, and build a strong international student community.


Together, we'll create lasting memories and support each other's journey in the UK! -- Tonari Arikekpar


The International Students Meet Up is a series of events that caters to the needs of international students who might have missed out on the International Welcome Week or Freshers' activities at the University of Plymouth. This initiative is not just a collection of events, but a cohesive platform that fosters community-building, provides crucial information, and offers a warm welcome to international students from diverse backgrounds. 

Find out more about the next sessions:



2. Student Networks 

Student networks are a new space where you can meet fellow students like yourself, form friendships, and build strong communities in a welcoming and supportive environment.

Student networks allow individuals to come together, socialise, and discuss issues that affect you, as well as campaign for changes you want to see that directly impact you.

There are many different networks, including an International Students Network, BAME Network, and First Gen Network. We encourage you to browse all networks and identify if you feel any of these networks are right for you.

You can find upcoming events and activities within these networks, sign up to mailing lists, and engage with polls and surveys relevant to the network.

Browse all Student Networks here.



3. The HELLO Project

The HELLO Project is run by the University of Plymouth. It matches new international students at the university with home student buddies at the start of the academic year. Paired students can get together to talk, ask questions, get information, and share ideas about anything; from living in the Ocean City to life at the university, or learn from one another about cultural differences as well as finding similarities and potential hobbies you may or could share.

The overall purpose of the HELLO Project is to aid international students in making friends and integrate with peers they may not of come across if it wasn't for the project. 


In 2024, the Hello Project will celebrate its 10th year of successfully welcoming newly arrived international students to the University of Plymouth. Over 1500 international students have taken part in the scheme to date, and we have trained over 350 UoP students to act as buddies. As a student-led activity that promotes friendships across cultures, everyone benefits from the Hello Project. -- The HELLO Project


The HELLO Project runs in October and February every year.
For more information about taking part in the HELLO Project as a new international student or a student buddy, please email:




4. The UPSU Buddy Scheme

The UPSU Buddy Scheme is not designed specifically for international students, however, we strongly encourage international students to get involved!

The UPSU Buddy Scheme supports students who are struggling to settle into university life. The Buddy Scheme pairs a trained volunteer with an individual who may be finding it difficult to make friends at university or feel overwhelmed with moving away. This is a social scheme, so often buddies will go for a coffee with the student they have been paired with, help them find their way around campus, show them the best of Plymouth life, or attend activities and events with them. 

Whether you decide to be a trained buddy and offer a helping hand to a fellow student, or you want to find a buddy to support you, this is a great opportunity to meet new people who you are matched based on common interests and hobbies. 

Find out more about the UPSU Buddy Scheme here and sign up to find a friend!





5. Find friends from around the world with Global Plymouth.

**Please note that Global Plymouth is not run by the University of Plymouth or the University of Plymouth Students' Union.

Global Plymouth is a non-profit organisation dedicated to uniting Plymouth’s international student populations with the wider community. 

Global Plymouth hosts a monthly International Dinner, which is the largest regular multinational gathering taking place right here in your Ocean City. These International Dinners are referred to as the "most diverse, welcoming monthly event in the Southwest"; a "festival of shared food, music and dance."

Whether you are an international student or just want to meet new people and embrace new cultures, Global Plymouth invites all University of Plymouth students to get involved and attend their monthly International Dinners. 


“No matter who you are, or where you are from, come do join us to sample delicious dishes from all around the world at our International Dinner. It is all for free. Please do bring along a dish/drink to share if you are able. Absolutely no worries if not – we just want to celebrate the beauty you bring to our community!” – Global Plymouth


You can find out more about Global Plymouth and their upcoming events by connecting with them on Facebook.





Other ways to find friends...

Outside of these schemes and projects, there are many other ways you can find communities and friends whilst at university; for example, by joining a student group, regularly taking part in one of our Give It A Go activities, getting involved with volunteering opportunities, or by getting involved with student-led projects and campaigns.

You may also find friends by attending some of our weekly evening events, such as Jam House and Karaoke nights. These are great opportunities for students to connect with other students from different courses and degree types who they wouldn’t usually cross paths with at university, and maybe even build new and unexpected friendships!



Get in touch with SU Advice

We understand that university life can be stressful and that every student will have their own unique experience and cope in different ways. We want you to know that we are here to support your transition into university and provide you with practical advice when it comes to accommodation, finance, taking care of your mental health, and more, as well as signpost you to support services provided by us, the University of Plymouth, and externally if you need it. 

Find out more about the support we can offer with SU Advice.



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