Worrying about making friends abroad is, in my opinion, one of the most valid worries that can exist. I mean really, think about it, you are in a whole different country where you don't know the style of life, nor the traditions, and you are still trying to learn the lingua franca of the region. We all worry about being alone and not having people to party with on a Saturday night, but hey, let me tell you that's not going to be the case. First of all, in the first week you are in the same boat with everyone else in the program. No one knows each other, everyone is new, so what happens next? You find IES Abroad peers to talk with and you become friends with them, boom! You have your IES Abroad family who is always gonna be there for you. It’s impossible to not click with your peers.
Making friends outside the program can be a little harder, but not impossible. Stepping out of one's comfort zone is difficult (especially in another language), but once you break out of that shell you will never be the same again. During my first week I decided to step out of my comfort zone and let Paris know I was here. I love dancing and it's something that keeps me going, but since my room is a little small I decided to go out to a park and just jam some tunes and do some moves. Another person that probably woke up with the same mindset as me was also at the park dancing. I decided to go and say hi. Gosh, what a way to break the ice. We ended up talking and laughing for a while after finding out we had the same name (Martin/Martina). We danced together for a little and then shared our contact information. She invited me to a couple dance concerts for the weekend, which is how I found out more about the dance community in Paris, as well as the fun music events happening. Because I decided to be vulnerable and leave behind the fear of speaking French to natives, I made a new friend and discovered a whole new part of the city just by saying hi to someone. I also want to brag about the fact that now I have a dance partner with whom I dance every Sunday morning.
See? There are nice people anywhere you go, you can make friends, it's just a matter of taking the challenge of breaking out of that shell and allowing yourself to be vulnerable. After all, we are all here to learn and challenge ourselves. It is important to remember that you are not the only one out there in the same situation. If you consider yourself shy, go find another shy person, become besties and go watch an old vintage movie at Le Champo movie theatre. Trust me, that place is great!
Another quick Paris tip for making friends: always carry a lighter with you, even if you don’t smoke (round of applause for Seth Fisher who shared this tip with us and is helping us get acquainted with Parisian culture). People will sometimes ask for a light, which, in the unspoken rules of society, is an invitation to start talking. Thank me when someone invites you for a picnic at the park in front of the Eiffel tower.
Making friends in another country is great, but let's not forget about our good old friends back home. I have to say it's hard, especially taking into account the time zone difference, but it's not impossible to keep in touch every once in a while. It’s actually super nice to talk to friends after not talking for several days, because the excitement multiplies and you realize how important these people are to you. It's a good idea, however, to disconnect a little from your life back home in order to be able to fully immerse yourself in your host country. If you stay super connected to what is going on at home, you are always going to have that feeling of wishing you were there. That will stop you from fully enjoying being in your host country. I know it's hard, but remember that you are going to go back to your friends at home and will make so many more memories. In the meantime enjoy the moment where you are and buy a baguette with cheese. It’s good and cheap —what more could you ask for?
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Martin Lopez Melendez
<p>My name is Martin and I am a 20-year-old student studying at Lewis & Clark College in Portland Oregon. I'm majoring in World Languages with my two main languages being French and Russian and minoring in dance. I was born in a small rural area in Mexico and immigrated to California when I was 13. At age 16 I embarked on a 2-year adventure at the United World College USA located in northern New Mexico. I love talking to people, seeing and learning about new places. In my free time, I love dancing, reading, working out, and spending time with friends. I am also a goat lover and consider myself a goat expert.</p>