Let’s be honest, making friends at university can be challenging – especially if you’ve moved to a new country. It’s perfectly normal to feel a little intimidated at the beginning. Luckily, Dubai is a fantastic place to meet new people and socialize. Nearly everybody can remember what it was like to start fresh, so people from all areas in Dubai are incredibly open and welcoming. Here are some of the best ways to make the most of the social side of one of the most vibrant regions in the world.

Join a Group or Club

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Meeting people with similar hobbies and interests is a great way to socialize and make friends. Because Dubai’s population is made up of people from all over the world, there is a social group for everyone, with just about everything imaginable. Many universities have a range of clubs that suit any interest. Canadian University Dubai, for example, encourages students to make the most of their many existing student clubs. CUD’s Dance Club brings together dancers and choreographers from different disciplines and backgrounds, and the Drama Club lets writers, actors, directors and anyone interested in performance, work together to create entertaining workshops and shows.

If you want to move a little further out of your comfort zone, there are tons of social media pages and websites such as Meetup which bring people together to do what they enjoy. Can’t find what you’re looking for? Start your own club! CUD, along with other universities, provides great support to help you get your group or activity started.

From November to April, the climate in Dubai is perfect for outdoor enthusiasts. Cycling, running, hiking and swimming groups make the most of the warm, sunny weather. It’s a great way to meet the type of people who like to get up and seize the day.

Be brave and join a club – if you don’t like it, then you don’t have to go again and you can always try something else. It’s better to have had a go than to have stayed at home wondering what could have been.

Go to Community Events

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Even though there are over 8 million people in Dubai, it still prides itself on being a tight-knit community. This can be seen through the various community events which are held (and extremely well-attended) throughout the year. The Dubai Fitness Challenge in November is a great example of the type of events that bring people together. From weekend carnivals to citywide events, the city challenged its people to get active for 30 minutes every day for 30 days, making Dubai the most active city in the world.

For those whose interests lie in other areas, there are many other month-long events held throughout the year to make sure everyone gets a chance to celebrate what they love. These include the Dubai International Jazz Festival in February and the Art Dubai Festival in March, which feature impressive works from leading international galleries.

For university students, “Don’t Forget the Welcome Week,” the world’s largest annual festival for international students, is where you can connect with other students and win prizes by participating in the fun activities planned during the exciting week-long event.

Universities also have their own events for students. One of Jumeira University’s core commitments is Community Engagement and so it organizes a number of events related to its district throughout the year. IMT Dubai hosts an excellent Fresher’s Party and a Vaudeville Culture and Business festival. Middlesex University’s calendar is always full, which helps give students the best experience possible. In March alone there are 18 different events, including their own baking competition.

However, not everything can be promoted as well as the Fitness Challenge or Week of Welcome, and your local community will always have something new to try. Check out your university or the notice board at your nearest grocery store – they will no doubt be full of upcoming events you can check out.

Engage in Charity Work

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Worthwhile causes can always use an extra hand, and this is no different in Dubai. The Dubai Volunteering Program links initiatives and events of various authorities and organizations with willing volunteers, helping to foster a spirit of unity and volunteer work throughout the community.

There are plenty of other opportunities year-round to help those in need. Feline Friends Dubai and K9 Friends Dubai both give people the chance to help out our furry (and not-so-furry) four-legged friends. Volunteering at these or other locations can be a great way to meet fellow animal lovers and bond over pet stories. The Al Noor Training Centre for Children with Special Needs has a volunteer program that provides opportunities to work with young people with physical or learning disabilities.

Plenty of exciting and innovative ways to raise money exist as well. Dubai-based charity Gulf4Good organizes challenges such as hikes and treks (including the Himalayas!), and Dubai Cares helps bring education to developing countries. Canadian University Dubai regularly raises awareness and money for charities, including an activity where students “sleep rough” on campus as part of the Five Days for the Homeless initiative.

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About the Author: When he’s not geeking out over the latest Marvel films, Chris Davy is an English teacher who splits his time between Dubai and the UK.