A challenging yet amazing opportunity, studying abroad is a once-in-a-lifetime experience. While the thought of being in a new city/country without any friends can be quite scary, it gives you the opportunity to meet some very interesting people from all over the world, says Kim Hsu, an exchange student in Canada. Talking about her experience as an exchange student abroad, Hsu says, “Feeling alienated in a foreign land is easy, but the key is not to give in to those feelings and keep trying to embrace the new culture.”
I am a Taiwanese student who came to Canada for a year in 2016. It has been an incredible and unforgettable journey. While the exchange is not for everyone, those of you who are interested should totally go for it! I made lots of international friends during my stay in Toronto. Feeling alienated in a foreign land is easy, but the key is not to give in to those feelings and keep trying to embrace the new culture. If you are an exchange student or soon to be one, here some tips that will not only help you break the ice, but will also help you make some amazing friends.
1. Take It Easy
I was terrified when I first landed in Canada. The thought of not being able to make friends in a foreign land was pretty terrifying, but I didn’t let it stress me out. Slowly, I started connecting with my batchmates and other foreign students quite well. It started with college projects, which then turned into hanging out and jamming sessions.
So, take each day as it comes – you will be surrounded by other students who, just like you, have also left their home, friends and family to pursue their dreams. All you need to do is put yourself out there, just be yourself. Establishing long-lasting bonds take time. Join hobby groups and talk to your classmates. For instance, conversing with others from your own course or program can help you relate to one another’s similar backgrounds. Group studies and project work are a great way to bond with your classmates. Hanging out with them after classes or catching up over a cup of coffee can also help you bond better.
2. Be Open To Meeting People
Opening up to such a wide mix of people was the biggest hurdle I faced, but I took it head-on. I attended different events, lunches, dinners and meetups organised by universities and used these get-togethers to my advantage.
Another way to overcome your fears is to meet new people on and off the campus. Get to know others at your host school or campus. College meetups are the easiest way to meet your peers. Don’t shy away from sharing experiences. Talk to students, ask them where they’re from and what inspired them to study here. The process is reciprocal – other students will start showing interest in your roots, too!
3. Do What You Actually Like Doing
The opportunity to study abroad gave me the chance to start afresh. I took this opportunity to explore my new campus and new cultures. You too should go out alone, explore the new city, discover new places and try out new things, and don’t forget to be the best version of yourself! If you feel lonely or sad, call home.
However, you do not require to alter your existing self to adjust to university life. Don’t try to erase who you are as a person; instead, allow yourself to mature into the person you wish to be. Being comfortable with yourself is the best way to head into a new situation as this will help you put other people at ease.
Remember, you’re all in the same boat by being in this new place full of strangers. People are drawn to other people who are comfortable with themselves. Be yourself, don’t pretend to be someone else just to fit in. Those who are comfortable in their own skin attract like-minded souls, thus establishing a common ground for friends forever.
4. Don’t Be Afraid To Try New Things
I met most of my close friends at the karaoke club at my university. Extracurricular activities or hobby groups are the best ways to make friends as you get to meet people with whom you share common interests. Volunteer groups are also an excellent option; I met some amazing people while volunteering at an animal shelter.
A lot of colleges abroad conduct events like fundraisers and donation drives that require volunteers. Putting yourself out there is a shortcut to establishing invaluable friendships that last a lifetime. Allow yourself to be open to new situations and people, and you will definitely come out richer.
5. Embrace New Experiences
Being in a new country can be overwhelming, but don’t forget that studying abroad is supposed to be one of the best experiences of your college education. I truly started enjoying the experience only after I embraced the new culture. Embracing this new place is a must as it will help you adapt and accept the social and cultural changes around you. Allow yourself to grow, to perceive new things and beliefs. Go in with a sense of wonder, not fearing changes.
Studying in a foreign country can be both exciting and nerve-wracking, but it also brings the opportunity to expand perspectives, to explore different cultures, and also gives you the chance to make new friends with whom you will spend your university years and share once-in-a-lifetime experiences. Be confident and you’ll have long-lasting friends in no time.