Natalie Laurence is a student at Texas A & M University and an ISA Featured Blogger. She is studying abroad with Veritas in Florianopolis, Brazil.
The short answer: Everyone.
Your time abroad is an incredible opportunity to get to know another culture FIRST HAND. You will be in contact with people that you would have never met otherwise. However, just like in your home country, you have a choice of whether or not you actually want to get to know those around you, initiate conversations, and invest in relationships.
However, the idea of getting to know “everyone” can be a bit overwhelming, so I’ve divided it into three different categories:
1. Your fellow exchange students.
These exchange students will likely be some of the first people you meet upon arrival in your new country. BE EACH OTHER’S FRIEND. Besides studying abroad together, you also have something else in common: you’re looking for new friends. I say, share the experience together, adventure together, meet locals together, and challenge one another in your new language.
But, beware the bubble! You are in a different country. Meet people that live there.
Which leads me to…
Whether you’re staying in a host home or living in your own space, get to know those you’re living around. Regardless of how long you’ll be abroad, make the most of your time there. Meet other students who go to your school. Then meet their friends, and their friend’s friends. Talk to the servers in those little cafés and restaurants and become their favorite frequent customers. Talk to other commuters on the bus and ask to practice their language with them. Get involved somewhere that will put you in contact with more locals. For example, you could join a gym, a dance studio, or a language exchange meetup, the possibilities are right in front of you! Become a part of your city.
P.S. Don’t forget your program coordinators are there for you, too, and are incredible resources for navigating your new home!
3. People back “home”.
While living in the present and where you are is always a good idea, don’t forget about your other friends and family back home, wherever home is for you. Studying abroad is a great opportunity for you to share the new things that you’re experiencing with others. This doesn’t mean just spam their news feeds with incredible pictures, but talk to them, write to them, share the stories and lessons behind your pictures or posts as well.
And, while you may or may not like to admit it, at some point you’re probably going to miss them. So, don’t be a stranger, but also, don’t spend all of your time in your host country fixed on life elsewhere. Embrace the change!
So, be bold. Leave your room. Initiate.
But, most importantly, enjoy the adventure!
Até mais, gente.