While studying abroad, among the other priceless possibilities that lie before you, the chance to make lifelong friends from around the world is one of the sweetest. While in a foreign country, thousands of miles from home, these special people become not only your friends in the traditional sense, but also your family in many ways.
You might spend certain holidays with them, celebrate birthdays together and share the excitement of trying or cooking local cuisine. You can also explore your base city and beyond with your new comrades, and the memories you’ll gain from all these adventures are ones that you will cherish forever.
While becoming pals with the people in your program is all fine and dandy, some students may long to meet locals, students in other fields of study or even long-term expats living in the region. This is great for getting a more well-rounded travel experience and for learning lots about your temporary home, and luckily there are plenty of places that this can be achieved.
Language classes and other classes outside your program
I have been learning Polish outside of my graduate school here in Krakow, and over the past couple years have met many wonderful people from dozens of different countries in these classes. Language lessons are not the only option though — take a cooking class about regional dishes, a traditional dance class or, if you’d rather, a type of activity or sports you’re also involved with at home.
Even if the language of instruction is not English, don’t let this hold you back. The class can still be enjoyable (with perhaps a little sign language thrown in) and, in my experience, somebody will more often than not know English — and you can practice the local language.
Tutoring and language exchanges
As mentioned above, languages present a unique and fun way of meeting people, but this doesn’t just have to involve you learning a foreign language. Offering your English (or other) language skills to help others in the form of tutoring or at a language-exchange club is the perfect way to socialize with locals or those living in the city from countries whose first language is not English. Of course, on the flipside, you can also attend language-exchange clubs for many languages other than English and work on conversing in a foreign language you’ve been learning — perhaps even the area dialect.
Organizations catering to expats and travelers
InterNations.org, Couchsurfing.org and TravBuddy.com are just a few of the many websites to start browsing if you’re intent on going beyond the student sphere to meet expats and travelers passing through town. InterNations holds regular meetings that are attended by more working folks than students, but everyone’s welcome. Plus, it provides a great opportunity to network, especially if you envision yourself spending more time abroad in the future — working, studying, volunteering and so on.
Couchsurfing and TravBuddy are more aimed at travelers visiting for shorter periods of time, but I’ve seen plenty of other types use the sites, too. Regardless, they are still good resources for finding travel-loving friends. Couchsurfing holds meetings and events in numerous urban areas worldwide, and this aspect of it draws more residents than others, so check one out near you!
Recurring guided tours, such as those put out by FreeWalkingTour.com, are interesting ways to meet new buddies — either tourists or residents — who enjoy learning about their town. The tours I’ve participated in (in Wroclaw and Krakow) are conducted in English and cover different topics all the time, and they’re free besides a discretionary tip. I’ve been very impressed with the guides, and also have loved strolling through the towns, noticing new things and hearing intriguing facts.
Finally, don’t forget that meeting friends through other friends is another beneficial scenario for everyone involved, because you can all hang out together!
Now get to mingling…
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