Okay, I admit that “Let’s do some professional networking!” is definitely not your first thought when you land in a foreign country for a semester. But if you want to go beyond the tourist attractions and actually dive into a new culture, meeting professionals who work in your field is a great way to do it.
It’s not that hard to do, either. In one night during my second week in London, I met some technical advisors from Deloitte, the employees of a product design firm, and the directors of a London nonprofit. We worked together to come up with ideas to increase engagement in a London homeless shelter.
Oh, and there was free pizza and drinks.
We were at an event called “Experiment Studio,” a monthly event where people interested in design, experimenting, and problem solving come together to experiment with ideas for products, services, and business design. Events like these are called “meetups.” They’re a big deal in tech, but there are also meetups for artists, writers, entrepreneurs, and more. Not all of them are business-y, either. Want to go play badminton? Meet fellow mountain bikers? Join a book club? There’s a meetup for that.
The go-to place for finding meetups is meetup.com. It’s free to join, free to browse, and most meetups are free to attend. When you sign up, you can join groups that look interesting to you and get an email when a group schedules a meetup. You’re bound to find a meetup that fits you—I’m writing this on a Wednesday in March and I counted over 220 events happening around London today.
Meetups are a great place to network, meet new people, hear talks from professionals, and learn new skills. And even if you’re not looking to network, you can always look for the ones with free food.