No Anglophones, Please.

I have a confession to make. There was an oft-repeated phrase that I’d heard countless times before I came to France for my year abroad. My confession is that I too was guilty of thinking this way and I’d uttered the phrase countless times. “I’m going to avoid Americans. I only want to make French friends.” Wow. These words evoke a much different feeling in me now than they did before September 1st. The idea behind this phrase is awesome. I wholeheartedly believe that in order to be successful while studying abroad one must integrate into the host culture. Having friends who are native to your host country is super helpful and can be an enriching experience. The reality is unfortunately rather harsh. You can’t be choosey. Sorry. Here’s how things really go down when you arrive in a new city in a foreign country:

Everything is a whirlwind. It’s normal to initially regret leaving home. Feeling like “Oh my gosh, why did I come here” is actually really common. Then you meet people. Lots of international students arrive within the same week and it’s not uncommon for a large number of international students to live in the same residence. Basically, the first friends you make might be Spanish, German, Finnish, Mexican, or even American. These students are looking for friends just like you and they’re just as lost. My advice is to help people out. Show some people where the grocery store is, help them get their documents together if you have good language skills, or invite everyone for pizza so they have a reason to leave their room.

Then after a few weeks the friend groups are really solidified. If you’re in a foreign country to learn the language then, surprise, you won’t have classes with natives. You will meet natives on the street, in restaurants, in nightclubs, and sometimes at school. Depending on the country in which you study you’ll have varying degrees of success in maintaining these friendships. Don’t get discouraged- just keep making an effort in your target language and you’ll see results in no time!

Having friends from all over the world is one of the best things that results from studying abroad. I’m so glad that I ditched the “no Americans” attitude and let friendships happen. I have American friends from Georgia, Kansas, and New Jersey who’ve helped me to feel at home here in Clermont-Ferrand. I also have made friendships with English-speaking students from Turkey, Ireland, Wales, Greece, The Czech Republic, China, and so many other countries. The perspective that comes along with diverse friendships has further broadened my worldview and added immensely to my study abroad experience.

 

Basically, don’t sweat about making certain types of friends while abroad. Things will happen organically as long as you keep an open mind.

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