Blending In: How to Meet Locals When You Study Abroad

September 18, 2013

You’re settling in to your home-away-from-home for the semester (or year), and you’re excited to meet new people and make life-long friends… but you don’t want to be “that kid” who only hangs out with other people from your home country. Easy–don’t be! ISEP Marketing Assistant Alex P shares advice from his study abroad experience about how to make friends with locals during your educational travel adventures…

One of the most rewarding parts of studying abroad will be the people that will be brought into your life. One of the greatest strengths of studying through ISEP is the ability to actually become a member of the community you’ve seen in movies, magazines, and on Facebook. So, now that you’ve chosen a place, how do you become one of the neighbors? Well by choosing ISEP, you’re already a step ahead.

Take Classes with Locals

With ISEP programs, international students are often enrolled in the same classes as local students. This is one of the best ways to meet people, strengthen your ability with the host language, and get an up-close look at the cultural differences between countries. Getting together with these students for group projects is a great way to develop relationships that will last long after you’ve gone back home.

Participate in Conversation Exchanges

Making a friend in Seville, Spain
Making a friend in Seville, Spain

Another great way to build friendships while abroad is to check with student services about any conversation partner programs that may be available. If you’re like me, you’re going to feel like the only person in the class who has NO CLUE what’s going on. It gets better—I promise. This is where the conversation partners come in. In the midst of your new teacher rambling on about who knows what in Spanish for the last hour, it’s easy to forget that you also know a very valuable language. Get involved with a local that is trying to learn English. From there, arrange times to meet up with your new friend and switch off between which language you speak. The more you practice, the more familiar you’re going to get with the language.

Learn More about Your Host City

Your conversation partner will most likely know the area much better than you, so take advantage of it! I was studying abroad and did the one thing you are NEVER supposed to do: lose my passport (side note: always pack photocopies of your passport). In a pre-smartphone world, navigating the big city was nearly impossible. I took a map and wandered around town for about 2 hours before I finally gave up and called for backup. My conversation partner met me in a central location and helped me find the U.S. Consulate, get passport photos taken, and practiced his English by repeatedly asking, “How could you lose your PASSPORT?”

Share Your Culture with Locals… and Learn About Your New Home

When you arrange meetings with locals, try to get a sense for their interests. Movies, music, and books spread quickly across borders. They’ll likely be familiar with a lot of the same things that you love from back home. Try to reciprocate that interest—ask them about what movies or artists are important to your host city or country. Take initiative to become a local, not just someone who’s watching from up close!

It’s easy to blend in in Germany (…after a beer)
It’s easy to blend in in Germany (…after a beer)

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