Hey guys, long time no blog! It's now been about 6 weeks since I arrived in Australia and the time has flown! It really doesn't feel like it's been that long...at this point I'm feeling at home and like I've found my place here. I'm learning street names and how to get from place to place, I've started to understand Aussie slang, and I even got to pet a koala earlier this week! But I think my favorite part so far is how I've made friendships that I can tell will last even when I return home. Honestly? Making friends was what I was worried about most before I arrived, actually. Yeah, that's right. This girl had more anxiety over meeting people than she did over leaving everything she knew, moving to a new country, and joining a new family.
Now, for those of you who don't know me, I am one of the most introverty-introverts ever. Sure, once I'm around good friends I open up and get more outgoing and bubbly, but it's always been hard for me to be that way around new people. I knew that would be one of the most challenging parts of studying abroad for me. Starting over in a brand-new school and trying to break into close-knit friend groups? That was kind of a nightmare situation for me. That's why I made it a main goal of mine to break out of my shell and make lasting friendships.
So, I thought I'd write up some tips and tricks for my fellow introverts (and extroverts too of course!) in case you ever end up dropped all alone in a foreign land needing a friend.
1. Make the First Move
Alright, I'm going to be completely honest here: this is something I have always been overly scared of. I've never known why or been able to explain it, but going up and talking to people first terrifies me. For the longest time, I let that fear stop me from doing that. I still do sometimes. I am so glad that somehow I managed to get past that fear during my first week at Burnside, because that was how I met a couple of my closest friends I have here. Sometimes, all it takes is a simple, stupid joke to start a friendship, you know? And so far, I haven't had a negative experience result from going up and introducing myself, both in Australia and at home. I've started to learn that the worst can happen is that you get a weird look and move on.
2. Work For It
You have to put in effort to forming the friendships. As brutal as it sounds, many of the local students have seen internationals come and go with the seasons, so some may be less inclined to get close. They also already have their own friend groups and sometimes are scared to branch out. For the first month or so, you're probably going to end up working a bit harder at the friendship than they are. Don't worry though, it turns around. Just takes a little patience and a little time.
3. Reach Out to Locals and Internationals
Going into my study abroad, I was so excited to make friends from all over the world. I had dreams of becoming so close with many of the other internationals and then always having an excuse to visit other countries (and a place to crash there too!) While I am close with many of the other international students at Burnside, I've tried my best to get to know Aussies too. I mean, that's the quickest way to integrate, right? Nobody's going to know the ins and outs of your host country and culture like a local and everyone's been so much fun to get to know! Plus, I really love the Australian sense of humor and my friends are helping to teach me plenty of slang.
4. Get Involved
There is no quicker way to meet people you click with than by throwing yourself into an activity. Back at home, I spend a lot of time in theatre so I was hoping to get involved with the theatre program at my new school. Unfortunately, there won't be a show while I am here, so I had to find some new way to meet people. So, I joined choir and have had a lot of fun getting closer with a couple friends and meeting people from all grades. In the next couple weeks, I am also going to volunteer with a few friends in my Tourism class at the Mooloolaba Triathlon and I'm looking forward to it! I hope to start my surfing lessons soon and can't wait to meet some more people my age outside of my school.
5. Be Open
Sometimes, a smile is all it takes. Generally, I've found that upon learning that I'm an exchange student, Aussie classmates enthusiastically flood me with question after question about life in America. Occasionally, I've been asked to say random sentences so they can hear my accent, which always makes me laugh! I think my favorite question I've been asked so far (and this is a surprisingly common one) is "How many celebrities do you see in a day/week/month?" I've had to regrettably inform them that I have never once seen a celebrity walking around at home, not unless you count seeing a cardboard cutout of Russell Wilson from the Seattle Seahawks on sale at the grocery store! My point is, usually local students will want to get to know you just as much as you want to get to know them.
Anyways, those are just a few tips and tricks for putting yourself out there and making friends abroad, even if you're like me and talking to people scares you. Hopefully I'll have my next blog up in a more timely fashion...