First thing’s first, it is perfectly fine to be shy!

Have you ever felt that you might be missing out on things because you are shy? Did you want to tag along with your mates for that night out or road trip, but felt like “Umm, I don’t know if I’d fit in…”?

I can assure you that you are not alone. I have been shy almost all my life, but I have managed to break out of this proverbial shell and create new friendships and opportunities during my time in Melbourne.

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So, how and where do you start?

Think of this as steppingstones. You can tackle it with one step at a time.

For international students, it is very tempting to keep with others who are from your own culture or speak your own language. However, the diversity that Melbourne and Victoria offers is amazing. The people here are very friendly and they would love to hear from you! Try and be open to new friendships and strike conversations with people you might not normally talk to.

Start with an open mindset

It can be hard stepping into a brand-new country, especially if you have never been on your own other than short vacations.

When I came here, I had a very simple goal – I told myself I would be open to new ideas and new adventures. Coming from a collectivist and conservative society, it has been a refreshing change.

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Communal living in student accommodation and residential colleges

I decided to live at an on-campus residential college upon arriving in Melbourne, even though I had family members who wanted me to stay with them. I had never lived on-campus before and it is something I always wanted to tick off. I met many exchange students, domestic students as well as international students, and quickly started making friends.

Bumping into other students in the common spaces, laundry room and kitchen became an everyday thing and saying “Hi” with a smile felt natural. I never used to play guitar or sing in public but if you ask my old mates from there, they will tell you I was a regular attendee of many jam sessions in the common room!

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Consider volunteering

In my opinion, volunteering is the easiest way to meet people, make friends, gain valuable life skills and contribute back to the community. From your university clubs to non-profits and charities – they always appreciate an extra pair of helping hands.

In my one-and-a-half years of living in Melbourne, I have volunteered at four different organisations. Being a business student, I feel that volunteering really helps you to develop a network of contacts that could help in your career, provides a great sense of community and has helped me with my shyness.

University clubs and events

Are you interested in art? Or do you have amazing dance moves? Why not put them to great use and join your favourite club.

I can tell you with confidence there is a club for everyone. Be it gaming or even motorsports – you will find many like-minded people even though you may come from different countries. O-week and summer and winter events on campus are also great ways to go out there and have fun.

The Study Melbourne Hub also hosts fantastic events for international students and offers year-round services to assist students in Melbourne and Victoria. This is a great place to meet new people and utilise the workshops, festivals, and support that they offer.

Cultural events around Melbourne

At the start of this year, I got to experience the St Kilda Music Festival and Moomba Festival and even went on a boat trip on the Yarra River. These sorts of experiences make life in Melbourne so exciting. Events like the Melbourne Writers Festival run fun storytelling competitions for international students and the Study Melbourne Hub hosts lots of interesting workshops and valuable webinars. There are so many cultural events and festivals that Melbourne and Victoria have to offer and having friends to go with makes these experiences even better.

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Smile and breathe

It is not always easy to break out of your comfort zone. But if you just start with a smile and wave, you are already halfway there!

Take a breather if it gets a bit daunting and keep telling yourself ‘it is okay’. It will take some time, but what is out there waiting for you to be enjoyed is simply life-changing.

Written by Study Melbourne Ambassador Shohail Ibne Mahbub.