Having friends in your life not only feels good, but it's also good for your health and wellbeing. And while keeping in touch with friends and family back home with phone and video calls is an effective way to avoid feeling homesick, building new face-to-face friendships and connections is a good idea, too.
If you're wondering how to go about meeting new people when you're new to a town, city or university, the following suggestions might help.
Find like-minded people
When you're actively trying to meet and make new friends, a good place to start is by putting yourself in situations where you're more likely to meet people you have something in common with. That might be one of your hobbies or interests, your culture, or even something you want to do having recently arrived in Australia, such as signing up for an English language course.
Browse noticeboards and online community groups, or head to meetup.com where you can find groups to join based on where you live and what interests you. Your university or college will have social clubs or groups you might be interested in joining and set yourself a goal of saying "Hi" to someone new when you attend a lecture or small group session.
Do some volunteer work
As well as being another opportunity to meet people, just the act of volunteering can help you feel more socially connected. There are many different ways to volunteer. But if you find a cause you're passionate about – anything from animal welfare to environmentalism or helping others learn a skill – there's a good chance you'll meet like-minded people.
To find volunteering opportunities, visit the Go Volunteer website, where you can search based on your location and the categories that interest you. Also try the Seek Volunteer website and investigate whether there are volunteering opportunities at your university or college.
Sign up for group exercise
Research shows that exercising with others has great benefits for your mental health and wellbeing, and can encourage a genuine sense of connection among those who participate. Medibank is a proud partner of parkrun, a free, weekly, community event held every Saturday. People who regularly take part in parkrun say it's the sense of community and the friendships they make with other park runners (or walkers) that keeps them coming back.
In Australia, it's perfectly acceptable to sign up for a group sport (like soccer, cricket or netball) even if you don't know anybody – clubs are always very happy to welcome new members.
Say hi to those who live nearby
Simply making the effort to say hi to the people who live in the houses or apartments near yours can reduce feelings of loneliness if you're new to a community. And you never know how many of those casual "hellos" might turn into friendships in the future. Something as simple as two people's proximity to each other has been shown to encourage friendship, regardless of how much they have in common.
And persistent. It takes spending a certain amount of time together for someone you've met to move from "acquaintance" to "friend". Plus, forming a friendship with people you meet through volunteering, exercising or after joining a group of some sort requires consistency so that you have a chance to get to know each other. Research shows that among people who initially met as strangers, connectivity grew in direct relation to how many times they had the chance to meet up. So stick with it.
24/7 Student Health and Support Line
Remember, if you're a student with Medibank OSHC or ahm OSHC, you can phone the 24/7 Student Health and Support Line at any time, day, or night. They'll offer you advice and over the phone counselling as part of your cover and have an interpreter service, so you can speak to someone in your own language. This service is available on 1800 887 283 for Medibank OSHC policy holders or 1800 006 745 for ahm OSHC policy holders.