Concerned about making friends when you come to Ireland? Our ambassador from Canada, Sara Sotirakos shares her top tips on how to branch out socially and make long-lasting friendships.

I moved to Dublin in August 2018 having never been here (or anywhere in Ireland) before. I didn’t know a single person on my course or anyone who lives here. I was also moving from a state of comfort back home — I had a solid group of friends, I was finishing up a four-year undergrad degree and was comfortable in that environment. I also had a job with great relationships with my coworkers. So why the heck would I leave all that to throw myself into an entirely new environment? Well, I am a little nuts, but besides that, I knew I what I wanted in my education and career, and Ireland offered me that. I really thought this was an environment I could adjust to quickly – and I did.

One thing I was worried about before moving here was how I was going to make friends. I had been so comfortable in my social circles for so long… I legitimately forgot how to meet people. I managed to befriend some of my classmates early on but a few months in I found myself in a slump, I felt like I had cornered myself into small social circles and I didn’t know how to branch out. Going to organised events, like at my residence, for example, didn’t seem appealing because everyone attending would be with friends they already had. Sound familiar?

If you are anything like me and are wondering how you’re going to meet people, besides going to organised events that can sometimes feel awkward, here are a few things you can try:

Branch out within your class

Got an inside joke with a lab partner or someone in your tutorial group? Go with them on a coffee run or sit with them at lunch. Do you and someone outside of your circle have hiking in common? Take a hike with someone new! Don’t feel like you have to stick with the same people day in and day out.

Discover some great hiking spots in and around Dublin

Cliffs looking out to sea with shrubbery in the foreground

Hiking along the Howth cliff walk

Pre-drinks & pub nights

Social drinking is a part of Irish culture but if you are not a big drinker or don’t drink at all, don’t think you can’t attend nights out. You’ll make some great memories hanging out with people at a pre-drinking party or out at a pub. Hanging out with people outside of the environment of school is great stress relief. And you’ll probably make some new friends too if people bring significant others, or the host has a bunch of flatmates. You never know!

Lights reflected on the river Liffey at night time

Nights out in Dublin city centre

Join a sport

Listen, you know you need to exercise, you know you want to make friends. I can tell you from experience you do not need to be good at a sport to do this. It doesn’t even need to be a school team, there are social sports leagues for adults (practices held on weeknights, games weekends – suited to most people’s work schedules) where you can meet loads of new people. I am Canadian and have never heard of European Handball. While house-hunting, I was wandering around a neighbourhood after viewing an apartment and wandered into a recreation centre. I was chatting to the staff and asked about what social sports leagues are around — basketball, unfortunately, wasn’t an option. That’s when handball was recommended to me, and now I am learning an entirely new sport and have met a group of wonderful people while doing it.

If sports aren’t your thing, join a dance class, a cooking class, or anything that is an organised activity that you have to pay for… I don’t know about you, but if I pay to do something, I am way more likely to actually do it. Or even better, find a project like the Education in Ireland Student Ambassador Programme where you can meet people going through the same experience you are! You can explore Ireland together, like I did when a group of us went to Kilkenny Castle.

woman in blue coat standing in front of a castle

Sara at Kilkenny Castle

All in all, just don’t hold yourself back and you will find meeting people a lot easier than you might have expected! What tips do you have for making new friends? Leave me a comment below.