Making Friends as an International Student in Leeds

 16th May 2024

Being an international student studying at a university in the UK can be a truly exciting and rewarding adventure. Although the thought of moving to a new country is probably a little daunting, it offers you the unique experience of completely immersing yourself in a different culture. You’ll have the opportunity to meet people and create new, life-long friendships, as well as get the education you need to kickstart your career.

But how do you go about making new friends as an international student? - This is something that a lot of international students worry about. 

We asked some international students how they found moving to the UK to study and how they made friends while they were here studying in Leeds.

Here are some tips from international students studying in Leeds:

Attend orientation events

The university holds events at the start of term, especially for their new intake, so be sure to join in. Walking into a room of unfamiliar faces might be daunting, but remember that everyone there is in the same boat.

“I made sure to attend the Freshers Fair events that Leeds University put on for new students. I got talking to some other students and found out that they were living in the same halls, so we swapped numbers and made plans to meet up. Everyone’s in the same position at the start, so you don’t feel too awkward!”

“International Welcome Week at the student union was good; they held ‘speed friending’ which was like speed dating but to meet people. I enjoyed it and made some friends. They also had outings with other international students, which was a good way to meet people who had also come from other countries to study here.”

Join schemes for international students.

The Buddy Scheme and Feeling at Home in Leeds workshops are just two of the ways in which Leeds University seeks to welcome and integrate its international students. Make sure you take full advantage of these schemes by registering on the Leeds University website.


Join relevant societies.

University societies are one of the easiest ways to meet people. They are set up by students, for students, and they’re a great way to connect with those who share similar interests - whether that’s music, walking, history or photography.  

There is also a society just for international students; you can find out more details about how to join at the Freshers Fair.

“I joined university societies which appealed to me, which meant I met lots of people, and we had something in common. Societies put on socials so you can mix with people and make new friends. Most of them are new too, even if they aren’t also international students. There was a group just for international students, and that was good because you have something to talk about immediately.”

Be open to new things.

Don’t be scared to try something new! Stay open minded and try to stray out of your comfort zone occasionally; whether that’s going on a hiking trip, or a visit to the pub. 

“A lot of British socialising is based around going to the pub, which is very different to home! I soon learned that chatting in pubs is just a normal way to socialise with friends and a good way to meet people, even if you don’t drink alcohol.”

Look at social networking apps.

Social media and social networking apps are a great way to get to know new faces before you’ve even started your university course. Many universities will have their own Facebook groups for new freshers to join, enabling them to connect with people at the same university. 

Other students recommend apps like ‘Bumble BFF’ for meeting friends in the local area.

“Before I went to university I found a Facebook group which was set up for this year’s freshers. New students used it to connect with people who were going to be living in the same halls of residence and asking and answering questions, even planning socials. It made me feel welcome and less nervous.”

Sign up for study groups.

Making friends with other people on your course is a great idea for note-sharing and revision when exam time comes around. If there are no study groups set up, consider creating one!

“The people on your course are the best people to get to know because you’ll see them every day. Depending on the structure of your course, you may find it easier or harder to get to know people, but there are usually study groups you can join which help you make friends”

Make good use of the university’s common areas. 

There are plenty of places across campus—including the library, student union, and cafes—that students frequent. You can often find people there who are happy to chat.

“The library might not be a great place to chat, but you can meet people in the student union and in cafes on campus. Most people are friendly and will easily strike up a conversation.”

Live locally

International students can choose to live in halls or residences while they’re studying at Leeds, where they will be able to mix with other students. However if you choose to live off-campus, then living in a busy student area with good access to the city centre and university will help you to get out there and meet people. 

If you’re unsure about which area is best for you, check out our area guide to see what would suit you best.


Remember, you are not alone.

There are 14,000 international students from 137 different countries studying at Leeds University alone. If you’re struggling, help and support is available from the University

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