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How to Make Friends (Study Abroad Edition)

My luggage was checked, my passport was in hand, and my backpack seemed to only get heavier as I continued to navigate Newark International Airport in search of the correct gate. As I wandered the airport that has led me to so many amazing places in the past, I realized this next flight was different. At that moment, I was not only traveling alone, but I was also heading to a country where I would not know a single soul when I arrived. Luckily, any reservations that I may have been having about being a loner for the next four months vanished after day 1 of my new life in Costa Rica. The people I have met here (both the international students and the locals) have been nothing but welcoming and kind.

Interestingly though, making friends abroad has been different than making friends at home in the United States. If you are doubting me, you clearly have not studied abroad yet. If that is the case, and you are wondering what on earth I mean- keep reading.

Below you will find all of my new found wisdom on making friends while studying abroad.

3 Ways to Make Friends During Study Abroad

1) Your affiliate program (CEA in my case) will be where you meet your first friends in your host country. From being familiar with their names after stalking your program’s Facebook group a bit, to the fact that a few of these people may be your housemates, and finally to day 1 of orientation, you are thrown into these people’s lives. As you get more comfortable, these new friends will also become your security blanket as you branch out to meet more people.

 Here I am with the 7 other CEA students participating
in the Early Start- Spanish Intensive program.

2) Introduce yourself to everyone. How are you going to become friends if you do not even know someone’s name? Introducing yourself always leads to some quality small talk where you realize you have a mutual friend from school, you just visited their hometown/state, or you have the same weekend plans. This is the simplest way to form a new friendship. Definitely make sure you introduce yourself and befriend people from other programs. That can open up a whole network of new people to meet, and everyone wants to meet everyone!
 Universidad VERITAS treated the international students to
shaved ice in celebration of Independence Day.
Photo Credit "Study Abroad VERITAS Costa Rica".

3) Invite yourself places. This one will be the hardest to overcome. Normally, it would be considered rude to invite yourself on someone’s weekend beach trip, lunch outing, or study session. Interestingly, NO ONE thinks that is weird here. Everyone is open to including new people for any activity. For example, I just went away for the weekend to the middle of the rainforest with a group of 10 people. Before we left, I only knew 2 of the people going on the trip, but by the time we got back to San José we had all bonded over our experience and became great friends.

While abroad, every student has the same few goals. These include experiencing as much as possible in your host country, traveling, learning the language, understanding the culture, and having fun. With that mindset, everyone is open to any opportunity thrown his or her way. Take advantage of that and meet as many people as possible because having met too many friends abroad won’t be something you will regret at the end of the semester.

I have only been here for few weeks so far, but I know that the people I have met will always be close to me. We have already experienced so much together, and I can’t wait to see what the next few months are like with these amazing people.

     ¡Pura Vida!

Peyton Black is the CEA MOJO in San José, Costa Rica. She is currently a Junior at College of Charleston.



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