Making Friends While Studying Abroad

Kelli Rowedder
Kelli Rowedder

Kelli Rowedder has an MA in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL) from the Institute of Education, University of London in London, England, with a focus on reading in a second language and academic writing. She also has a BA in English and Communications from the University of Delaware. Kelli has lived and taught English in Cusco, Peru; London, England; and Atlanta, Georgia. Her teaching interests include using literature and other authentic materials as teaching tools, and academic reading and writing strategies. She believes students need to be comfortable in their environment, feel that the instructor is approachable, and be able to relate to the content being taught, so they can instantly recognize its “real world” value.

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Our last two episodes of Ask US: American Culture Advice for International Students deal with one of the more difficult things about studying abroad: making friends outside of your cultural group or field of study.

It’s human nature to gravitate towards those who are like us, but sometimes we have interests that are outside of what we are studying or where we are from. Especially if you are studying at a school with a large international population, it can be hard to make friends with locals and easy to stay in your own cultural bubble.

We asked students about how they have made friends outside of their classmates, and they came up with some great suggestions! But be warned: it will take some work. You will probably feel awkward at times, but it is important to get out of our comfort zone and have new experiences. That is how we learn and grow, and it is just as important as what we learn in the classroom.

Our most recent episode, “So you’ve been invited to a party…” talks about what happens (hopefully) after making friends: being invited to a party. And while graduate school is a lot of work, the most important lesson from both of these videos is to SAY YES when you are invited to a social activity.

Studying is incredibly important, but our brains need a break. I attended graduate school abroad, and while I always made time to participate in cultural events, visit the local tourist destinations, and travel, there are still things I wish I had made the time for. But I never wish that I had spent more time studying!

So while you’re studying in a new city, make the time and the effort to find your tribe: they can help you through the most difficult and stressful times. And remember to SAY YES to new experiences.

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