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 some suggestions on how to meet new people in the USA:
- Make friends at your internship/training location. Your new internship 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 coworkers. If someone invites you to lunch or happy hour, join them! And if there are company-wide events, such as holiday parties or barbecues, go to those too!
- Take a class in your community. You'll be able to find many different options available such as English classes, cooking classes, dance lessons, and team sports, among others. 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, there is a popular rock climbing gym in Brooklyn: http://www.brooklynboulders.com/. Day passes to Brooklyn Boulders are as low as $18. In New York, there are also many NYC Parks and Recreational Centers that offer free classes through the "Shape Up NYC" program. There are also many recreational and one-time classes out there available to individuals, even something as unique as cake decorating. There are many community-based options–find one that interests you and sign up!
- 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 or other social events where you can make new friends easily.
- Volunteer: Volunteering is a great way to give back to your new community and meet new people in the process. Check out sites like Volunteermatch.org or Idealist.org 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.com 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. Meet-up groups are located in many cities and are comprised of groups of individuals looking to meet new people in the area. Meeting people with similar interests is a great way to start a conversation!
- 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 events that are going on during the week. Many events are free or low-cost to attend. The InterExchange Cultural Compass is a great resource for this, too. Select your state and click on "Local Festivals."
- 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, dodge ball 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.net, www.zogsports.org or www.nycsocialsportsclub.com make it easy to find the right league for you. For other states, 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 Outdoor Bound! http://www.outdoorbound.com/index.php. 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 under $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. It pairs new participants with interns/trainees who have been in the U.S. for a few months. Through this, 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 get 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!
InterExchange Career Training USA is a top J-1 Visa sponsor for university students and young professionals who have already secured internships or training programs with companies in the U.S. If you still need to find an internship or training program in the U.S., check out our resources and start the J-1 Visa sponsorship process early.
Originally from Columbus, Ohio, Ani is a fan of exploring new places through photography and the local cuisine. After earning her BFA in photography from NYU and gaining communications experience at International Planned Parenthood Federation, she joined InterExchange in 2012, and worked as the Marketing Producer until 2016.