By Monika Salita, @monikasalita
Packing one’s life into a suitcase and hopping on a plane to travel around the globe to go live and work in a foreign country may sound absolutely daunting and nerve-wracking to some, or like life’s ultimate thrill to others. Shy but keen on new adventures, that’s exactly what I did when I hopped on a plane in 2008 and landed in beautiful Montpellier, France.
As part of my teaching placement, I was fortunate enough to be provided with inexpensive housing at the high school where I taught. Living with me on the top floor of one of the dormitories were five non-English teaching assistants, and over time, we overcame language barriers and became great friends; spending evenings out together at our local bars or clubs.
The ultimate turning point for me in finding English-language assistant friends came from one of my biggest hardships– acquiring a carte de séjour or, residency card, to be allowed to stay legally in the country for the length of my teaching contract. (Thankfully, this is no longer an issue for foreign assistants planning to stay in the country for less than one year.)
This quest led me to the Pôle Universitaire, a place where foreign students (and teaching assistants like me) could come to gain information on navigating the rental market, acquiring proper medical insurance, get helping filing paperwork, find groups to join, and so on. By sheer luck I met a fellow teaching assistant at the Pôle, and my new friend Sarah invited me to explore the city and to meet her fellow teaching assistant friends. As one person introduced me to another, my web of friendships grew.
My keys for successfully making new friends in a foreign country include:
- Being open to meeting and getting to know your neighbors and co-workers. Everyone has a story to tell.
- Confidently tackling the challenges you encounter. Chances are there are many people who are in same situation as you and
can become your friend or ally.
- And most importantly, exploring all the resources available to foreign visitors or students. If you do not live in a university town with a student center, hopefully your city will have some kind of tourist information center where you can gather insightful information on how to best navigate your new city.