Making Friends in Foreign PlacesNagoya, Spring 2012
Moving to a new school, a new city, a new country, where you know no one is certainly daunting. You wonder if you’ll be able to make friends and adjust to a new lifestyle. However, everyone says that studying abroad is one of the best experiences ever and despite having been in Japan less than a month, I already feel as though I can comfortably say: I agree.
I have had to push myself out of my comfort zone multiple times in an effort to make friends, particularly with Japanese students, but it was definitely worth it. Since the Japanese school system follows a different schedule, the Japanese students are on break starting this week until April which meant that I felt even more pressure to make those friends within my first two weeks at Nanzan. However, I came here to improve my Japanese and immerse myself in Japanese culture so of course, I want to make Japanese friends. In just the past week, I’ve been to karaoke three times, each time with a different group of people. I’ve also been clubbing for the first time in Japan which was quite an interesting experience, especially since they had foreigners in minimal clothing dancing behind the DJ. I’ve made so many new friends, I’m already dreading the day I’ll have to leave.
So for those of you who want to study abroad, or are studying abroad currently but struggling to make friends, here’s my advice to you: just keep trying. It may seem sometimes as though you have nothing in common with the people from your host country and that even if you did, you wouldn’t be able to express yourself well enough to become friends but I don’t think that’s true. Even in America, when you meet someone new, it’s unlikely you will feel an instantaneous connection to them so just keep trying! If you ask enough questions, you’re bound to stumble upon something you both like. I know that for me, when Nanzan had Japanese students give us a tour of the campus, I felt as if I had a golden opportunity to make new friends and I tried my best to come up with as many conversation points as possible (of course, while being limited to those I can express in Japanese). Who would’ve guessed that I would end up having a tour guide who loves musicals just like me and that we would end up, before the day was over, making plans to go see Wicked in Nagoya together in February? I certainly didn’t see that one coming but I’m glad it did.
Communication isn’t only through words but body language too. A smile can go a long way. So don’t give up if your words fail you but smile and try again. Chances are, with some hand gestures and a bit of re-phrasing, you can get your point across and make some new friends. So, to everyone out there trying their best to make new friends…頑張ろうね！
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