Posted by  on August 30, 2011 in Travel Tips2 comments

Don’t just hang out with people from your program..branch out!

Ok, as you’ve probably noticed, we’ve been stressing that you should try to make friends with local kids in your study abroad city. We cannot recommend this enough!! It’s obviously kind of confusing as to how to actually do this, and you might feel kind of intimidated, but to be honest, it’s kind of like flirting/dating haha. But here are a few tips to help you:

First and foremost, don’t wait! DO NOT put this off. If you put it off, it’ll all of a sudden be the end of the semester and you’ll have missed your chance. So many of my friends who went abroad told me that they regret waiting, and wish they had taken advantage right away. Seriously though.

Many programs host events that help you to mingle with local students. Take advantage of these!!

Don’t just stick with your huge group of loud American friends when you’re out at a bar or out shopping/walking around. Instead, scan the crowd and look for people your age, and try to start a conversation with them (talk about anything: ask them a question about a drink, compliment them on their outfit, etc.). If you’re a girl, it’ll probably be easier to make friends with a local girl first, simply because a guy might think you’re flirting with him. Same thing for guys. I always joked that I should find a Spanish boyfriend and I secretly wanted one, I’m not going to lie haha, but it’s just easier to make same-gendered friends and they’re more likely to last beyond that one meeting.

Ask if they might be willing to get together once a week for coffee or lunch to practice speaking in the local language, and offer to practice speaking English with them, since it’s only fair.

Most importantly, follow through! Get their phone number and text them to set up some plans in the next few days after you meet them! And keep at it! Hopefully, soon enough, you’ll form a friendship with them that’ll go beyond a weekly language-focused coffee date.

They might then invite you to meet up with them and their friends. You’ll be a novelty, most likely, since you’re the random American. Sometimes you probably won’t be able to follow the conversation, but it’s good practice! And you’ll learn the cool slang too, which is kind of nice. One of my favorite nights in Madrid was when I went out for my Spanish friend’s birthday with her and all of her friends. We went to a discoteca that non-Spaniards don’t really go to, and it was really fun to be out with all of them and see their partying style! (As a side note, they were very impressed that I knew all the words to the Rihanna songs and to the other American songs that were playing haha)

They might also invite you to their house for lunch or dinner. I had a host family, but it was really nice to be able to get to know another neighborhood a bit better, and meet my friend’s family. It’s really just interesting to see what someone’s normal life is like. I went to their house for dinner probably about 5 times, and I even went to my friend’s aunt and uncle’s house for the day, which was pretty cool.

It’s going to seem awkward at first, but get over it. It’s awkward for everyone involved. But if you suck it up, and just do it, it’ll be very worth it and make your abroad experience really special. Maybe you’ll even be able to continue the friendship (and practice the language)- since I went abroad in Spring 2010, I Skype with my Spanish friend all the time, and we’ve each visited and stayed with each other.