While in the U.S. you're going to be gaining great work experience, improving your English, building your resume, and hopefully making lifelong friends! Meeting new people and finding fun things to do outside your internship will make your experience truly memorable.
Moving to a new place, particularly a new country, can be overwhelming: the language is different, the customs are different, and the people are different. Getting used to your new home can take some time, but there is no better way to get to know the area than to meet the people that live there!
Here are our suggestions on how to meet new people in the USA:
Make friends at your internship/training location
Your new host company is one of the first places to start meeting friends. You will likely meet a lot of new people at your host company, so be friendly and open to talking with your new co-workers. If someone invites you to lunch or happy hour, join them! And if there are company-wide events, such as holiday parties or barbecues, don't miss out on them. These types of events are also great ways to experience and learn about U.S. culture.
Take a class in your community
English classes, cooking classes, dance lessons, and team sports - you'll find many options no matter where you live! Many gyms also offer memberships as well as classes like boxing,cycling, yoga, dance classes, or even rock climbing.
If you are located in NYC, Brooklyn Boulders is a popular rock climbing gym and day passes are as low as $18. NYC Parks and Recreational Centers offer free classes through the Shape Up NYC program. There is a wide variety of recreational and one-time classes available to individuals, even something as unique as cake decorating. Find a community-based option that interests you and just sign up! To find these classes, you can look online at Meetup or Groupon or simply Google the type of class you would like and your town name to find more options.
Get to know your new neighbors
While you wouldn't want to knock on all of the doors in your apartment building, if you see a neighbor in the hallway or the laundry room, start up a conversation and let them know you're new in town. They might have great recommendations for ways to get to know your new community.
Join a congregation
If you attended religious services in your home country, consider attending religious services in your new U.S. community. A local church may offer youth groups, volunteering opportunities, or other social events where you can make new friends easily.
Volunteering is a great way to give back to your new community and meet new people in the process. Check out sites like VolunteerMatch or Idealist to find volunteer opportunities in your area. You can volunteer at an individual event or on an ongoing basis depending on your interests. You can also find volunteer opportunities in your area through the InterExchange Cultural Compass. Select the state where you live and then "Help Your Community" to find out more.
Join an interest group
Websites like Meetup provide people with the chance to connect with others that share similar interests. Meet-up groups offer fun activities for you to socialize with others such as a book group, a hiking club, wine tasting, a group for people new to the city, or anything else that matches your hobbies and interests. Meeting people with similar interests is a great way to start a conversation; you already have something in common!
Attend local festivals and events
Find out what's happening in your community. Pick up free local papers or do an internet search for community bulletin board websites in your area. They often list free or low-cost events that are going on during the week. The InterExchange Cultural Compass is a great resource for this, too. Select your state and click on "Local Festivals." You can also find events happening in big cities on Time Out.
Play a sport
Joining a sports team is a great way to meet people and form friendships. Most communities have adult recreation sports leagues that accommodate all levels of players from the skilled and competitive to the novice, and you can join as an individual player or with friends. You can choose from a variety of sports such as soccer, volleyball, bowling, dodgeball, or kickball, to name just a few. Most leagues play once a week and even go out together after games which gives you the opportunity to get to know your teammates even better! Sites like SportsMonster, Zog Sports or My Sports Clubs make it easy to find the right league for you. For more ideas, check out the Cultural Compass for your state, and select "Sports and Recreation" to find lists of league sports in your area.
Explore outdoor activities
If you are into outdoor adventures and in an urban area like NYC, try Outward Bound. They offer outdoor activities in NYC such as a photography class in Central Park, or if you are looking to escape the city, they offer one-day and multi-day trips with activities such as cross-country skiing, snowshoeing or hiking, depending on the season. Most day trips cost less than $100, which includes transportation and equipment. For other states, check out the "Outdoor Activities" section of your state's Cultural Compass page.
Join the Peer Mentor Program
Career Training USA offers a Peer Mentor program for all participants. New participants are paired with interns/trainees who have been in the U.S. for a few months. Through the program, you can meet other J-1 interns and trainees and get some advice from people in the same situation as you. If you are interested, please email [email protected].
Join the InterExchange Career Training USA Participant Network
All incoming and current Career Training participants are encouraged to join our Participant Network. It is a great way to connect with other J-1 interns and trainees throughout the U.S. To request membership, please email [email protected].
Remember, you never know where you can meet a new friend, so put yourself out there! Be friendly and open to discussing your country and culture, and ask people about theirs, too. People in the USA come from a wide variety of backgrounds, and they will be happy to teach you about their history, culture, and traditions. Good luck and have fun!
Kristen started at InterExchange Career Training USA in 2016 after returning from a year-long internship in London. She is thrilled to be able to help InterExchange participants embark on their very own internships abroad in the U.S. Kristen currently lives in New York City, holds a masters degree from the University of Oxford, and is hoping to travel to every corner of the globe.