Making friends on exchange is important, especially when you’re in a whole new country that you don’t know much about. They can give you support and advice, they are someone you can talk to, and most importantly, in Canada, they can give you a ride in their car. (Canadian cities are very spread out!)
During my first year of university in Edinburgh, I got to meet many exchange students and make friends with many- it wasn’t until a few months later when I realised that many of these students only stuck with other exchange students, and first year students, because most found it difficult to form friendships with local students in their year. Before I began my exchange, I always felt like studying abroad should be an immersive experience, where one gets to experience life as a regular local student in the host university.
Which is why when I found out I would go on exchange, one of my goals was to integrate with more local students, step out of the ‘exchange student circle’, and experience Canadian culture as it is. Before I arrived, I had convinced myself that I should probably make the most out of this experience by fully immersing myself as a student in the host university, instead of just an ‘exchange student’. For some, meeting exchange students from all over the world might have been a more fulfilling experience. But personally, having studied in three other countries (Canada is my fourth!), I always thought that there was not much point in only socialising with people from home when ideally you would want to have a real Canadian experience with local friends.
As the only exchange student from the University of Edinburgh in the University of Calgary, Canada, I found it was quite important to form friendships as soon as possible at the start of your exchange, so I worked hard to form a social circle in my first month on exchange. It’s not difficult, you just need to make an effort.
The second month of my exchange consisted of more student club activities. (Edit: Apologies again- I had written this two months into my exchange and just realised it was still in drafts! I will talk more about student life in upcoming blog posts!) I managed to join a few student groups. I auditioned and got into the University Symphony Orchestra, where I met many friendly fellow musicians. I joined the Rundle Group of Geology, where there were many like-minded geology lovers. And also the Outdoor Adventurers, where there were many people who, like me, love hiking. And lastly I went through recruitment and joined Alpha Omicron Pi, an international women’s fraternity.
A lot of people talk about the problems of ‘transitioning’ into the university, but I found out that as long you put yourself out there, I guarantee you won’t even feel the transition! Participate in clubs and activities you love doing, and you will find people with the same hobbies as you do. Remember these people, and try to make friends with them!
Through these activities I got to meet so many interesting people and make friends with Calgarians who are more than willing to introduce me to their culture.
I will talk more about more student organisation experiences in upcoming blog posts.