My tenth grade history teacher once told our class that life is all about the connections you make, whether it is with people, animals or nature. Making these connections while abroad will enhance your experience that much more. If you aren’t the most open-minded person, now is the chance to take the opportunity to relax a little and give it a try. You will find yourself in situations where you need to ask locals for directions or their recommendations on places to eat and stay. Don’t be afraid, as long as you are with a group of friends, to invite the locals along and get to know them, even to simply have a conversation. Making connections with locals will allow you to delve deeper into the culture, possibly practice speaking the local language or learn about the best local places to eat and visit. If you are living with a host family, let them take you in as their own son or daughter, and you will create a strong bond in no time.
I have heard many times from people (myself included), that going abroad is scary, because you don’t know with whom you’ll become friends—or if you’ll make any friends at all. The secret is, everyone else is thinking the same thing, and they are all looking for new friends too. You’re likely to make plenty of friends while you are abroad, because chances are everyone else is in the same situation.
It can happen very naturally. For example, the person you let sit next to you on the bus ride on your first excursion may become your best friend while abroad, or the person you happen to walk up the street to class with may become a good friend. You don’t have to worry about making friends as long as you are open-minded. It is an opportunity similar to starting college and making friends in a new environment.
There may be people from all around the country or all around the world with different accents, hobbies, study interests and favorite sports teams. I’m from Massachusetts, and some of my best friends from abroad were from West Virginia, Indiana, California, Rhode Island, Michigan and South Carolina. As you can see, people from all around may become your travel buddies and partners in adventure. The best part is, no matter your background, you can all come together in an unbelievable experience abroad. You will find your way back home from being lost together, handle any situation thrown at you, and in some cases you will remain good friends much after the program ends.
The friendships you make abroad are not only for the time you are abroad, but for a lifetime. You may go back to the country you lived in to visit locals you became close with or even find yourself at reunions with study abroad friends back in the States. Study abroad is what you make of it, and being open-minded to new faces will be a lifelong reward you won’t regret. Below are thoughts from some other students that studied abroad:
Making friends abroad makes the experience so much more fun and exciting. The friends I made in Costa Rica were amazing and made the trip even more rewarding. –Kelsey Geddings (San José, Costa Rica)
The best times I had while I was abroad were when I was hanging out with Danes. My visiting family made me feel welcomed and gave me a sense of the Danish family lifestyle, while also providing me with a feeling of comfort when I was missing my own family. I also played on a soccer team made up of half Danes and half Americans. The Danes made us feel like we were valuable members of the team and always invited us to hangout after. If I hadn’t pushed myself out of my comfort zone and immersed myself in the activities of the Danish people, my experience would never have been as exciting and enjoyable as it ended up being. –Kaylee Sullivan (Copenhagen, Denmark)
My study abroad experience simply changed my life; from the friendships I gained to the lessons I learned. I started the journey with my sister and came out of it with an entire new family. My tica family’s big heart and understanding helped me transition into a culture where I couldn’t even understand what they were saying. It’s hard to believe a year ago I was meeting the other incredible AIFS students and now, I have fallen in love with one. Costa Rica will always have a part of my heart. –Danielle Colone (San José, Costa Rica)
This post was written by Mackenzie Hudson, an AIFS alum who studied abroad in San José, Costa Rica.
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