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Expanding Your Global Network While Abroad

Studying abroad is a wonderful time for students to make lifelong friends, international contacts, and experience different cultures. Unfortunately some students miss out on expanding their international network while they are abroad. The easy thing to do is to stay within your comfort zone while abroad, however it should be a time for new experiences. Isn’t that why we all chose to study abroad in the first place? To experience something new and exciting, which will not only be an adventure of a lifetime, but also excel us into our future?

The first thing I learned while studying abroad in Prague, is that you must be assertive and take the initiative if you’d like to make friends outside the American bubble. This means that you might have to make choices like joining an activity by yourself. For instance, I decided to join a gym and a church on my own while in Prague, I reached out to international students at my university, and even met some friends the old-fashioned way by sitting at a local bar or cafe and striking up conversation with strangers. To make new friends, you must not be afraid to step out of your normal routine and do things on your own.

 One easy way to connect with others is by playing sports!

Now don’t get me wrong, it’s also awesome to make American friends while abroad who you can go visit and keep in touch with when it’s all over (I have several). However, in my opinion, you will get the most out of studying abroad when there is a healthy balance between the two.

I had few connections in Europe before I originally arrived. These connections were not in-depth per se, so at the time I still had to go out of my comfort zone to strengthen them. My Danish friend Niels was a foreign exchange student at my high school when I was in the 10th grade. That friendship resulted in a week-long visit this year with Niels and his family in Copenhagen, Denmark while I was on break from classes. Then there are seven guys from Rotterdam, Netherlands I played internet video games with for years, but never met until I was studying abroad in Prague and took a weekend trip to hang out with them. Lastly, I had a friend from the States whose sister was living in Vienna, who I later visited multiple times and got to know her and the city well.

A little bit of intention can go a long way when building your global network from scratch.  My time in Europe has resulted in various international friends and contacts who have all taught me about their distinct cultures. I met Martje and her two brothers in Dresden, Germany and even visited Martje's home. Later I got invited to attend a wedding in London with Soozie from the United Kingdom. Nick from South Africa has become my regular gym partner. Plus I met Jackie who invited me to her home in Cologne, Germany and Elena who also invited me to her home in Moldova. I made even more international friends at the church I attend in Prague. Now I have good friends in those countries plus Finland, France, Russia, Australia, and Spain!

 Go out of your comfort zone to explore new places and meet new friends.

I listed the friends and contacts I’ve made to emphasize how studying abroad creates an awesome opportunity to grow your international network. If you decide to study abroad, I hope that you will take advantage of the amazing opportunity to expand your global network and friendships. You never know how soon you may see them again!

Ethan S. is a CEA alumnus from the Fall 2015 semester in Prague, Czech Republic and from Liberty University. He is the 2017 CEA On-Site Ambassador in Prague, Czech Republic.

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