By Alex Minard, Foster Undergraduate who participated in an exchange with the University of Economics in Prague, Czech Republic
One of the scariest parts of going on exchange was leaving everything and more importantly everyone that I know at home. The hardest night for me on exchange was the very first night I arrived in Prague. I arrived super late, it was dark and there was snow covering the ground. I had to hail a cab and get to my dormitory with a driver who barely spoke any English. After checking in to my room and unpacking my stuff, it hit me, I was alone for the first time in my life. After growing up in the Seattle area I had become so accustomed to always have people around me who I had known for years. Sitting at my desk in my room I had an overwhelming sense of loneliness that I had never felt before. It was that moment that I decided that for the rest of my time in Prague, I would never let myself feel like that again. The next day I set out to make friends and never looked back. I can honestly say that I made some of my best friends ever in Prague and can’t wait to stay in touch with them for years to come. So for those going on exchange by themselves, here are some of my tips for how to make lifelong friends early into your exchange.
- Put yourself out there early: don’t be afraid to go outside your comfort zone early into your program. Many of the best friendships that I made were people I met within the first week of my exchange.
- Go with the flow: Exchange is exchange, don’t treat it like a time schedule, some of the best memories and friends you will make will when you spontaneously decide to go do something.
- Stay off your phone: You will see your friends and family back home in a couple months. Unless it is an emergency, try and stay off your phone while you are with people on your program. Nothing makes people want to be friends with you if your face is buried in your phone the entire time.
- Learn about other people’s cultures: Seattle is a unique place, but so is where everyone else is from. Ask people questions about where they are from and get them talking about their culture and hometown. If you have some background knowledge this can be a great conversation starter and can lead into many other topics.
- Make plans happen: If you want to engage specific people, take charge on some plans and organize fun events for you all to do together. People will appreciate that you took the time to plan an outing and will make sure to include you in the future.