For my next blog post, I decided to tackle a topic that we all worry about but don't seem to talk about all that much. Everyone worries about making friends and finding ways to cure loneliness but when was the last time you said that out loud? As human beings, we need community in order to function. I consider myself to be an extremely independent and introverted soul, even still, I crave human interaction. And not just human interaction, but interaction that's meaningful. This past weekend, the CIEE students and directors went on an excursion to Varanasi. Along with being an extremely spiritual experience, it was also a very social trip! Our directors are extremely loveable people and we all found ways to bond and laugh together throughout the entire trip. Along with the amazing scenery and sites, I would say the amount of laughing and fun I had on this trip is ultimately what made it memorable. I've found that traveling with people and spending long days and long nights with them is a great way to form meaningful connections. Since we were spending so much time together, it was easy to feel comfortable in the space and open up about things that I maybe wouldn't have usually opened up about. It also helped that most of the others on the trip were just extremely kind and open. Being kind and keeping an open mind is crucial to maintaining a healthy social life while abroad. You are not going to meet people who are like you in most cases and even if you find that you disagree in most cases, that doesn't mean you can't still form meaningful connections. Connections are made when two people are listening to the other (and usually making jokes too). It's important to just smile and go with the flow of things and pay attention to social cues. If someone is not feeling up to chatting or sharing about a particular topic, try not to pry and respect their comfort levels. They will remember and hopefully feel comfortable chatting or approaching you in the future.
Another interesting learning curve was figuring out how to live with my host family. It definitely helps that every member of my host family is outstandingly kind (and not to mention hilarious). But it was still a challenge to make sure I was not being a burden in any way and trying to find ways in which I could integrate myself into the environment so that it would be easier on my host family having me in their home as well. I found it is best to just ask questions. If you are unsure of what time to be home by, ask. And be sure to respect their wishes as best you can. Try not to argue too much and remember that your host family are the ones being kind enough to open up their home to you. That's very difficult to open your home and lives to a complete stranger. But they chose to, the same way you chose to go live in strangers' home. They're probably just as nervous as you are and it's best to just communicate and find ways to make it easier on both parties involved. Remain aware of cultural differences and try not to make assumptions about what is alright and what isn't. This philosophy can apply to when making friends from school or in the city as well. I can honestly say that I have the most interesting conversations when I chat with people from my university because I genuinely never know what to expect from them and am unsure of the impression they will have of me as well. But what do you have to lose really? It may be difficult but remember to put yourself out there just a tiny bit and keep an open mind. And the best way to maintain an open mind is to ask questions and learn whenever possible.