Students gather at AC Hub to build friendships in a new environment

How to Make Friends helps international students find community
Photo: Nathalia Lencioni
Sarah Crawford (left) and Leah Grimes, who took part in organizing the event, smiling together after the event.

The most recent edition of the How to Make Friends event gave international students like Tom Xu, a computer programming student from China, a safe space to build new friendships and find belonging in a new community.

I think the event was quite helpful. Because someone like me, I’ve been here for less than one month,” said Xu. “I had totally no idea where to make new friends, and I didn’t know any place I can go, so at least I have one place to go and have people to talk [to].”

The event took place in the AC Hub, on the second floor of E-building on Jan. 31 from 12 p.m. to 1 p.m. and urged students to have open conversations and build friendships with their peers in a judgment-free environment.

How to Make Friends is held at the Algonquin College Woodroffe campus at the start of every semester by Project Lighthouse and the International Education Centre.

The event started with brief introductions of both attendees and organizers, followed by questions about international students’ experiences with cultural differences in Canadian social scenarios.

“The biggest difference I felt was that everybody is respected here,” said Vansh Sharma, an esthetics student from India. “Everybody is acknowledged.”

Tom Xu, Connor Guitard and Harrison Pringle (from left to right)
Tom Xu, Connor Guitard and Harrison Pringle (left to right) taking part in conversation at the event. Photo credit: Nathalia Lencioni

The attendees and organizers engaged in important conversations about topics such as challenges people may encounter entering a new community, how to approach new people in a respectful manner, and personal successes they’ve had entering new environments.

The event organizers suggested apps such as Meetup and clubs as a means to meet people with similar interests, and encouraged making plans with peers, as well as continuing to approach new people, even if friendships don’t happen right away.

“People might be different from you, and that’s okay,” said Sarah Crawford, sexual violence prevention and harm reduction coordinator for Project Lighthouse. “It can be difficult going into a community that already exists.”

Additionally, the group shared tips and tricks that have helped them make friends in the past, such as participating in activities outside of their comfort zone, paying close attention to body language and connecting over a shared learning experience.

The student attendees were encouraged to make use of the last few minutes of the event to speak more closely with each other and exchange contact information; as well as to return to the Student Support Services office on the third floor of E-building for more resources and information on future events.

“I would love to join this event when it happens next time,” said Xu. “It’s a lovely event, the conversations are pretty good, vivid, and everyone is friendly.”

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