Study Abroad can be an amazing time to make new friends from all over the world, but too often study abroad programs aren’t conducive to meeting locals. Students from the U.S. are warned of the “American ghetto” aspect of the experience – the tendency to only hang out with fellow American students and speak English. Classes may be with all American students as well and despite home stays with local families, the reality is that most students won’t make any local friends. Flirting with locals at bars doesn’t count either!
So why is it important to make a local friend? There are the obvious reasons of having someone to practice your second language with (if applicable) and getting insight into the host culture/city, but to me there is one even more important reason. You have someone that will call you out and challenge your perspective!
If you just hang out with other students from your own country on Study Abroad you are less likely to have someone challenge your viewpoints. In fact some of your assumptions may be shared and then perpetuated. A local friend is more inclined to disagree and/or spark a conversation that stretches you a bit.
Being a global mind doesn’t just happen by default when traveling. It’s the act of interacting with people with diverse viewpoints and backgrounds that will help expand your worldview, so go ahead and make a local friend on Study Abroad. Not only will it enrich your experience while there, it will also give you a personal connection abroad that could last a lifetime!