• Few or No Friends

International Student Feels Friendless and Adrift

Published: December 23, 2015 | Last Updated: September 1, 2021 By | 3 Replies Continue Reading

An international student feels stressed and unhappy after moving to the U.S. from India.


Hi Irene,

I’m an international student who came to the USA four months ago from India to pursue a Master’s degree in mechanical engineering in Oklahoma.

I feel very insecure here. Although I meet new people at my university, I am unable to make proper friendships with them. I am feeling very unhappy, having sleep problems and all these things are getting me down.

Can you please help me? Looking for a positive reply.

Signed, Raj


HI Raj,

Welcome to the U.S. and congratulations on embarking on a new academic career! I suspect that the admission requirements for your Master’s program were quite rigorous and competitive.

It’s easy to understand how a big move like this can leave you feeling stressed. Simultaneous with all the academic pressures associated with your program, you are adjusting to a new language, customs and culture. Additionally, it has to feel lonely living so far away from familiar family and friends.

Many universities set up special programs, mentors and social supports to help foreign students make this difficult adjustment. You should check with one of your professors to see what resources your university offers. For example, the university may be able to pair you with an upperclassman from India (or another Asian country) who has figured out ways to overcome these hurdles. Or there may be social groups on campus for international students to socialize, relax and share experiences.

I would also urge you to reach out to someone at the university counseling or student health offices for additional support. This would give you an opportunity to speak to a trained professional who has worked with other students facing the same hurdles as you. Sleep disorders and anxiety can be signs of depression—and depression can affect both your studies and your social life.

Finally, please read these two other relevant articles I’ve written, one for the American Association for the Advancement of Science and the other for The Friendship Blog. In addition to the practical information for coping they provide, you’ll also realize you aren’t alone.

Hope these suggestions are helpful. Hang in there! An adjustment like this takes some time.

My best, Irene

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Comments (3)

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  1. Amy F says:

    Hi Raj,
    Being in a new country without family and friends must feel overwhelming. Most friendship start off as acquaintances and many take longer than four months to develop. Have you tried checking out clubs at your university. Though of the students might be pursuing undergraduate degrees, the activities should still be open to you. Also, check out your school’s counseling service for support and help with your adjustment. I’m sure they have resources for you and can maybe direct you toward other international students in your situation. Good luck.

  2. Nancy says:

    Dear Raj,

    “Hang in there,” as we in America say. As you can tell, many people in this country struggle with friendships, otherwise, there would not be so many responses on a site such as the friendship blog! It is universal, the desire for connection and true friends and loneliness when we don’t feel we have those things. I am 62 years old, an American (born and raised in Indiana) and it wasn’t until I moved at age 24 to Denver that I finally felt that I met people who were kindred spirits and felt true friendship. Once I moved back home a number of years later, I carried my new-found confidence with me. That confidence meant I had lots of friend, it helped me get through law school and land a great job which I loved and I finally start dating (I was quite along in age before I dated seriously.) But, after I got married and had a couple of kids, I started slipping back into the shy girl I used to be and my friendships became shallow and I began to feel that no one understood me, or appreciated me and, in fact, if I died tomorrow, there would only be my husband, kids and one or two friends to come pay their respects. So what happened? It seems to me that life has passages where we cannot control the events. We have to go with the flow (Colorado Rocky Mountain High lesson) and see what life is trying to teach us. You are alone in a foreign country. Perfect time to watch people around you, see how they deal with life, shore up your own happiness by doing things you enjoy. You cannot force others to fill that void in you and you may not want to do that anyhow since voids are all part of living and can be filled with things you learn when you are in these conditions. Be proud of your accomplishments and be open to whatever experiences you have, even it it is loneliness. You will soon move into a more vibrant space – in my opinion – once you stop worrying about it all. Good luck to you.

  3. Cindy says:

    Hi Raj,

    You might want to check out Meetup: Find your people @ http://www.meetup.com


    Indian Culture Meetups – Meetup @ http://indian-culture.meetup.com


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