Every person you meet abroad will be different and unique in their own ways. But there are certain subsets of people that you’ll meet, all with their own advantages as your friend. Here is an incomplete list of the type of friends I’ve made while studying abroad at the University of Sunderland in the U.K.
1. The Friend from Your Home Country
When you study abroad, your host institution may organize an orientation together with other international students. While this can be kind of annoying, as you likely came to that country looking forward to meeting locals, don’t waste this opportunity to meet new people.
Sometimes, having someone who is going through the same as you can really help you keep your sanity. Having the familiarity of someone from your own country helps remind you that you’re not alone. You may share insecurities with them, as well as observations and revelations.
2. The Friend from Another Country
Because you will likely be initially surrounded by other international students, you’ll have the otherwise unlikely opportunity to get to know people from around the world who are all studying abroad. This is another chance to make unexpected friendships, and maybe even a few contacts you want to visit one day in their own home country.
Your friendship with these people will be unique because you are both experiencing the same strange country, but from entirely different backgrounds. It allows you to learn both about your new friend’s culture and the culture of your host country through a different perspective.
3. The Local
This is probably the friendship most people expect when they imagine studying abroad. They are all different people and interpret your host city in their own way. Some may love it, some may hate it, but these friendships are the ones you need to really understand the local community.
Most people love to share the city they call their home with others. Seize that opportunity and ask your new friend to show you their favorite parts of the city: the local secrets and the best places to eat. They can also answer all the really silly questions you might have.
4. The Not-Quite-as-Local
Of course, universities don’t just hold international and local students. Most universities have a diverse range of residents from all over your host country. They give your study abroad experience plurality and remind you that the area you’re studying in is just one part of a bigger country.
They’re also invaluable for day trips and weekend trips to nearby places. When you go traveling while studying abroad, don’t forget to further explore the country you’re already in. These not-quite-as-local friends allow you to get out and find out more about the diverse places just outside your new home.
Friendship and human connection is a huge part of studying abroad, and the way to gain greater insights into the culture you’re engaging with. Pursue and treasure these people, because they are really what come to define an enriching and educational international experience.
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