Make The Most of your Student Exchange Program - Making Friends Pt 1

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Being driven around by an 82 year old great grandma, house sitting for a local family, walking dogs and baby sitting for friends in a Bible study group.... there are so many experiences on my exchange program outside of school that I cherish because of the friends that I had made.

Indeed, embarking on an exchange program was the most memorable experiences in my life. Little did I expect that this short term experience would have such long term impact on my life. Going on an exchange program can be very different from the experience of studying abroad, and living overseas, as the short time frame you have will impact many of the choices you have to make.

I went with a group of friends from my university, and although we all had a whale of a time, out of the group, I am the only one who made lifelong friendships that are very close to my heart.

Making friends while on exchange can be very tricky. Many times, you might be living in an international house with other exchange students, or living with a local family in home stay. Whatever it is, I want to share some of the lessons that I learned while on exchange, which will hopefully be helpful to you, or someone you might know.

1. Know thyself

Are you an introvert or an extrovert? If you are the former, you would probably want to find a few close friends that you can connect deeply with. If you are the latter, you would want to get to know as many friends as possible, as the more the merrier is your motto.

Many people are rather balanced, and others fall onto the extremes of the spectrum. That said, the majority of us do have a preference for either being an introvert or an extrovert. But is important to find company you can enjoy, not company that you resent being with.

2. Know where to find like-minded friends

Introverts are usually found enjoying themselves in small quieter groups, absorbed in a book, enjoying the madness of parties from the sidelines without having to be part of the madness, enjoying a deeper conversation. While extroverts are likely to be the noisy ones in a party, the ones you hear in a big group and they ones more likely to enjoy parties and lively energy.

If you know how to spot these like-minded friends in the right places, it be easier to strike up a long lasting friendship.

Finding friends who have similar interests as you is also key to making good friends, especially if you crave a deep connection with someone. If you are religious, one of the best advice I can give is to make finding a religious community a priority. In my case, what made my experience so memorable was being part of a Bible Study group with locals that totally treated me like family. If you go to school, it is not uncommon for older couples to adopt exchange students, driving them around and welcome them into their homes for meals. This was one of the best friendships that I had made, and up till today, I still am overwhelmed by the extension of friendship, hospitality and love that this particular couple who were great grandparents extended to me. Indeed, sometimes spiritual ties are so special that you feel an instant bond with someone who is of the same faith as you are.

Continue reading Part 2 Here!

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