Making Friends Over Zoom: International Student Edition

Making friends is hard. Making friends over Zoom is harder. Making friends over Zoom while being in a different timezone and having socials in the early hours of the morning is probably the hardest.

And while I would love to say that there are only two and a half months of this struggle left, the next semester is likely to look similar, especially since staying at home is more financially viable. With that in mind, here are five tips that I, as a freshman with no friends going to Berkeley, have used to make friends:

#1: Keep your video on.

As this semester has gone on, the number of people who keep their video on has plummeted. While keeping your video off seems so much easier than showcasing your dark background (evidently, lacking the California sun) and the sleepiness in your eyes, keeping your video on, especially in discussion sections and breakout rooms, helps with forming connections. If your video is on, others will feel more comfortable striking up a conversation with you. They’ll also be able to attach a face to the Zoom name labels they see. Bonus tip: Your dark background and the time difference-related suffering is a great conversation starter!


#2: Introduce yourself and break the ice.

As obvious as this tip sounds, you would be surprised by how many keep their videos off and do not introduce themselves at all, even in breakout rooms. Even if everybody has their videos off, put yourself out there and introduce yourself. It'll definitely lead to a lot more people turning their video on and introducing themselves. Although this can sound super scary, especially if you are a freshman like me, it has helped me the most in establishing connections with others. 

#3: Find common interests.

Do you love reality television? Do you hate Zoom University? Are you thrilled the Lakers won the NBA this year after Kobe's untimely passing? If you answered yes to any of these questions, congratulations! You already have things in common with a lot of your peers. If you mention any of these things in a breakout room, be prepared to make lots and lots of friends!

basketball going through hoop

#4: Join clubs & communities.

Clubs with lengthy recruitment processes can be extremely frightening. Since everything is online, it becomes even more difficult to interact with members and see if you would be a good fit for the club. Despite the seemingly endless applications, I can assure you that it is all worth it in the end. I joined Her Campus and a social impact-based consulting club, and they have helped me find a family at Berkeley. I know that if I have any questions or concerns, I always have people who will guide me through it. I really recommend finding and applying to clubs that you feel a strong connection to, as it has certainly made my online semester a million times better.

#5: Be yourself!

You are amazing. Just because school is online does not mean that you don't get to crack unfunny jokes, be yourself, and express your wonderful personality.

These tips have worked for me, and I hope they do for you too.