Studying abroad is as exciting as it is beneficial to your education or career. With so many options for studying abroad available, you may end up traveling the globe without your close friends. That situation can seem daunting and cause you to hesitate to go, but you don’t need to worry. Going alone will allow you to meet even more people. Numerous opportunities to form relationships will present themselves during your travels, so it’s best to be prepared with the knowledge of how to make friends studying abroad. It’s natural to start with the peers in your program, but remember to reach out to the locals as well.
How To Make Friends With Fellow Students
The other people in your group will become your constant companions for the duration of the trip, so you might as well become familiar with them. The sooner you do so, the better, as it will eliminate awkwardness and maximize the fun you can have together.
Choose the Right Program
Before you even meet your fellow travelers, it’s important to select the right program based on your interests and goals. Those who join the same program will already have something in common with you, making it easier for you to connect.
Initiate the Friendship
Some people are shy, so if you wait around for others to make friends with you, you may miss out on some wonderful relationships. Show courage and be the first to extend a hand of friendship. Introduce yourself and be warm and kind to everyone, even if you don’t end up being buddies. If you’re shy, then now’s your chance to get out of your comfort zone.
Spend Free Time Together
Although you already spend all your time together doing formal activities as part of the program, hanging out in your free time too provides the opportunity to deepen the relationship. You may also see a different side to your fellow students, as casual and recreational settings can bring out the lighthearted or adventurous nature in others.
Talk About Your Fears
No doubt, staying in a foreign land will bring out nervousness, frustration, or homesickness. The good news is that you’re not the only one feeling those emotions. Sharing them with your peers helps everyone to show vulnerability and to comfort and support one another. Such an intimate experience will likely lead to stronger bonds between you.
How To Make Friends With the Locals
Although you spend most of your time with the people in your group, the point of the trip is exposure to other countries. This means getting to know the people who live in those places, too. Making friends with the locals can provide academic and professional networking.
Use the language
Communication leads to connection. You don’t need to become fluent in multiple foreign languages, but you should at least learn greetings and common phrases. Native speakers will appreciate your efforts, even if you mess up.
Politeness is a start, but it won’t necessarily lead to friends. Ask the locals questions about themselves and their homeland. For example, you could ask them what their favorite sightseeing destination is and why. Then listen to their answer with sincere interest.
Learn the Culture
Avoid arrogance when it comes to the social and religious aspects of the area. Behaviors that may seem rude or strange to you can be very important and sacred to the people there. Show honor to the culture and manners of the country by practicing its ways during your stay. As the saying goes, when in Rome, do as the Romans do.
Read Up on History
Coming across as an intelligent student instead of an ignorant tourist is sure to garner appreciation. Research the history of the country and specific locations you’ll be visiting. This information will also help you have something to talk to others about.
Try the Food
Food is the universal binder of loved ones. No matter where you go in the world, you’ll find food at the center of every gathering. The food may be different, but the joy it brings is the same. Be brave and try eating something new. You’ll not only earn respect, but you’ll also expand your palate and might even find your new favorite dish.
If your study abroad friends aren’t up for exploring, don’t let that prevent you from going. Doing things by yourself can encourage others to invite you into their circle because being alone can make you more approachable.
All of these tips will help you gain favor in the eyes of the locals, breaking down cultural barriers and allowing for connection. Keep in touch with those you form friendships with and you will always have comrades around the world.