Meeting People While Studying Abroad
Many people choose to study abroad so they can meet new people and see how people of other cultures live their lives. To really experience the country that you travel to, you need to spend time with the local people. This doesn’t mean you cannot spend time with your fellow students who are studying abroad, but you should make a point to meet new people and make friends with at least a few local people while you’re in a foreign country.
Making friends while studying in a strange place can be intimidating, but it is important to try. Most likely you will be well received. Here are a few suggestions for meeting new people while studying abroad.
Making Friends from Your Country
It is a good idea to become friends with at least a few of the other students who are studying abroad. These students are going through the same things you are, and it is possible that you will stay friends with these people after you finish studying abroad. According to Jessie Festa, “I can’t believe I ever worried about this. It is virtually impossible not to make friends. Everyone is in the same boat as you: nervous and just wanting to enjoy their experience abroad.”
Also, often times you will be able to meet people through these friends. This is especially true if you are a shy or quiet person. Sometimes you can use your friends to meet new and interesting people.
Stray from Your Group of Other Study Abroad Friends
Going out with the other study abroad students is a great way to meet new people if you are nervous about talking to locals on your own. When you’re in a group of all tourists, you instantly stand out. People will notice you, and when they do, you have your open to talk to them. Ask them to join your group for coffee or for lunch. Or strike up a conversation while browsing in one of the local shops.
If you are with a group of other study abroad students, you may be able to relax. In this strategy, you don’t necessarily have to talk to a local person by yourself. You can use your friend as a buffer in getting the conversation started. This strategy takes some of the pressure off, especially if there is any sort of language barrier.
One downside to the strategy of meeting new people in a group is that you may never stray from your comfort zone. Make it a point to get out of the group and try to meet someone, once you feel comfortable, or just tell the group that you want to meet some of the local people on your own. It will be easier to branch out if everyone else knows what you want to do.
Follow Through After Meeting Someone
If you aren’t positive a friendship will emerge after your first meeting, you should still follow through with a new person. Make sure to get their phone number or connect through social media, and then makes plans to get together. Even if you didn’t immediately hit it off, a connection is still a connection, and you should meet up with them again. You can’t necessarily make a final judgment after one meeting, and you never know who you’ll meet through the new person by trying to get together again. The main idea is being open to all kinds of people, which is one of the points of studying abroad in the first place.
Don’t Give Up If You Feel Awkward
Even if you feel awkward meeting and hanging out with new people, you shouldn’t give up on them too easily. If they are open to spending time with you, take them up on it. If they didn’t seem open to talking to you, maybe that isn’t the person to try making future plans with. Be careful not to be too pushy, but also make sure not to confuse something like a language barrier with someone disliking you.
Remember that you are a novelty. You are the foreigner; the person from the outside trying to fit in. You are interesting because you are different. Use this to your advantage, and if you have nothing to talk about, discuss the differences you see. Most people will be interested in comparing cultures, languages, and customs.
Want more tips for studying abroad? Read 5 Tips for Preparing to Stay With your Host Family .