Nobody tells you how difficult it is to settle in on exchange. You hear about the parties, beautiful landscapes and incredible food, but not about the initial loneliness, anxiety and apprehension. It was definitely tough to start out, but I’ve found a few extremely helpful techniques to make new friends. I call these: the 4 G’s!
Cards, get-to-know-you, drinking or board, there’s no better way to bring complete strangers together than a good game. I spent the first 3 evenings in my residence inviting anyone and everyone to play spoons, Pictionary, King’s Cup – you name it! And if you’re not good with names, a score keeping card is a great excuse to write everyone’s name on a piece of paper in front of you.
Who doesn’t love free food? Share a packet of chips, offer to make someone tea, or chat over a glass of wine. Scientists have shown poor students love free food. Full stop. (If they only like you for the food at first, don’t worry. They’ll soon realise how cool you are!)
Get involved in as many groups as you can. Despite my lack of any artistic talent, I signed up for salsa, snowboarding and acapella just to meet people. Groups also extend to Facebook – they are a great way of non-awkwardly keeping in contact, sharing info about events and having a communal freak-out spot when everyone realises they can’t actually enrol in any of their courses.
Music. Bangers. Beats. Whatever you call it, it’s a universal bring-together-er. When meeting new people you know nothing about, there’s bound to be awkward silences. With some tunes, these suddenly turn from uncomfortable into boogie sing-a-long sessions. No need to worry about people not liking your music either – strangers tend to be much more forgiving than your friends!
Settling in to a new home/city/country is always difficult, but with the 4 G’s and a willingness to go a little out of your comfort zone, exchange will be everything you expected – and more!