– Yeji Lee, University of Toronto, Sciences Po
Going abroad is kind of like going through your freshman year of college all over again; everyone is new, everyone is nervous and awkward, and everyone is desperate to find their group of friends – and fast. Sparked by a fear of being left out, you could find yourself halfway through your semester abroad, looking at the (very nice) individuals you hang out with every weekend, and thinking to yourself,
“I don’t have anything in common with these people.”
Maybe this post will help you avoid that. Or maybe you’ll end up in that situation anyway. But the contents of this post detail one very introverted and very awkward individual’s experience making friends, and meeting acquaintances during her year abroad.
Going abroad can be a daunting experience because loneliness is a more apparent option than ever. It’s at times like this when you think to yourself how much easier life would be if you were an extrovert – always the first to click “going” to a expat meetup event on Facebook, always the first to introduce yourself first to the person sitting next to you in class, always the first to follow someone you met “that one time at that one place” on Instagram. If you are like that, then making friends abroad should be as easy on your year abroad as it is anywhere else. But if you aren’t, things get a little more complicated.
You’re going to have to go through a lot more “trial and error” in finding the people who you feel compatible with: pushing yourself to go to events that you don’t want to go to, and introducing yourself to people who you have little interest in. In short, you’re going to have to make an effort that you normally wouldn’t have to make back home. It can be tiring, annoying, and a pain. At one point, you’ll probably find yourself fully dressed and ready to head out the door, but thinking to yourself that watching Friends in your sweats would make for such a better night.
But, if you want my honest opinion, the awkward moments when you’re really not clicking with the person you’re talking to, the times when the event you were looking forward to ended up being a bust, the situations when the person sitting next to you seems to have little interest in whatever you’re trying to say… they’re worth it.
People need other people, and your time abroad isn’t an exception to that rule. When you’re studying in a different country (likely in a culture that you didn’t grow up in, constantly surrounded by a language you might not be able to speak), being able to share the stupid embarrassing stories – where you accidentally offended the waiter or tripped face-first walking down the street – is everything.
For some people it’s easy to meet new people. For others, not so much. But for both, it’s necessary and important.