Something that a lot of people worry about before studying abroad is how they will make friends and if anyone will be like them. The answer is simply yes. The great thing about forming friendships abroad is that you already have a lot in common with everyone on your trip! You all chose to travel while studying, and you all chose this particular country or city for a reason.
When my group arrived in London, we were complete strangers. We were all jet lagged. I remember those first couple of rides on the Tube through bloodshot eyes. We were all dropped off together in a foreign country where, sure, you can speak English, but you may get squished crossing the road. This shared experience created a bond between that group. At times, we were challenged by one another. We all have different food preferences and wanted to see different sights. When you do not know people well and are roaming around one of the world’s largest cities together, you can come across some indecision and hanger. Luckily, in our case there was a lot of empathy. I am still close with two of the people I ran around London with because that experience made us become friends very quickly. Ultimately, the first few days either on your London stopover or in your host city will be the best times to create those new friendships.
The best part about study abroad friendships is that, when you have a large group, there will always be someone who wants to explore the same places you do! If you don’t want to go alone you can always find a buddy in the group who is looking forward to the same types of activities. This will broaden your friend group and when you actually go on an adventure with a new person, you become a lot closer to them.
Another great part of study abroad friendships is how they will help you adjust to the culture shock. This is probably the most unique part of these friendships. You may be the only Americans that you know or meet. So the first time in the grocery store when you can’t find your favorite snacks or brands and are fumbling with foreign currency, you won’t be the only person feeling overwhelmed. When you have to order in another language at a restaurant with food you have never tried, you will be one of many who are also sharing these new experiences. No matter what different thing you experience, you are not isolated. There will be another American student around to help you deal with these feelings, and to help you figure out how things work!
Of course, you won’t get along with everyone perfectly. Not everyone is like-minded. We all come from different walks of life and various backgrounds. My best piece of advice is this: don’t go into any social situation with judgments. Be open. Be kind to everyone! The study abroad group is together such a short time (only a few weeks to a few months) so make the most of it. Appreciate the people you become friends with. You’re going to make great memories with them, and will always look back on your time in your host country fondly because of them. You don’t need to prove yourself to anyone. If you just be yourself (as cliché as it sounds) you will naturally gravitate towards “your people.”
Everyone has different expectations about what they want to get out of their study abroad experience. As an introvert, I worried about what it would be like to have to be surrounded by strangers all the time. But in the end, it turned out to be the best part of the experience so far. I love having friends to explore my new city with, and you will too.