I am a creature of habit, as most humans are. I prefer staying inside and reading, traveling from the confines of my room through the pages of a book. For a long time, this was the only way for me to travel because I rarely had the time or the money. Now I am living in Europe and I have parts of the world at my fingertips that I didn’t have before.
Yet somehow, my first weeks here were spent in my room, still traveling the world through books when the world was really just outside of my room. It hit me that I was living in a new country, a new culture and I was wasting it.
So I started exploring.
At first I went out by myself; after school, I would walk around Graz instead of going back to my room. There was never a particular destination, only wandering to see where my feet would take me. Once I got a good group of friends, we started exploring the city and eventually traveling to other countries together.
There are some easy things you can do to fully immerse yourself in a culture:
1. Always, always, always attempt to speak the language.
People tend to appreciate when non-native speakers attempt to speak their language, even when you make errors. Look up some simple phrases; hello, thank you, goodbye, excuse me, etc. You are going to think you sound silly when you say these, and native speakers may think it too, but it will help you get comfortable with the language.
2. Get a guidebook.
Some seem to cringe at this concept, but they are actually amazingly helpful. They can tell you all the local restaurants and bars to go to. I got one for Austria and it helped me find unique spots in my city. Do this when you travel too; read about the city you’re visiting because it can help with getting around and point out the main sights.
3. Don’t be afraid to speak to people!
Go up to that guy you think is cute in the bar, go up to the pretty girl that’s laughing with her friends. You can make an infinite amount of friends by putting aside your fears. Maybe you’ll only meet them for a night, but you will be so much happier that you had.
In conclusion… get out! Do the things that scare you! You are so much more than you realize. You are in a new city that you may only get to live in for just a couple of months, go explore it and find things people have never found before. The world is in your hands, but you have to be brave enough to put away your fears. Maybe you’ll find a best friend, a lover, a new perspective. Maybe the most important thing you might find is yourself. Go! Explore! Discover!
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