How to Make Local Friends When You Study Abroad

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IES Abroad

For many students who study abroad, making local friends is a high priority during their experience. Our Centers offer unique ways for students to have a structured way to start making and meeting local friends abroad. Here are a few highlights:

Student Mentor Program in Salamanca, Spain

Our student mentors are university students from different facultades (schools or departments) who volunteer at IES Abroad Salamanca throughout the semester. They represent their facultad (major) and are a good reference for students who are interested in direct enrollment options at our partner institutions: Universidad de Salamanca (USAL) and Universidad Pontificia de Salamanca (UPSA).

The mentors participate actively during our orientation by showing you how to navigate the university guides online, helping with academic advising, and organizing tours of their facultades. They also join in on cultural activities and field trips so they have the opportunity to get to know you. They’re a great resource during the first few weeks as you adapt to life in Salamanca.

  study in spain    study in salamanca, spain

Throughout the semester, mentors organize at least one monthly activity (think: picnic by the river, tapas bar hopping, bicycle tour, karaoke night, ice skating, pot luck, night at the movies, etc.). The mentors are also invited to participate in all IES Abroad-sponsored activities, such as group meals, language exchange gatherings, cooking classes, theater performances, concerts, and more. Our students form genuine bonds with our mentors, spending time with them during their daily activities, like shopping, having coffee at a café, studying at the library, and have even joined for independent travels together.

  study abroad spain    salamanca, spain

Club Chileno in Santiago, Chile

Club Chileno is an opportunity for you to participate in cultural activities with Chilean students that will better your understanding and integration into the Chilean culture. Local students, from orientation onward, share the subtleties of social norms and help you compare to and reflect on your culture back home. Club Chileno has been key in helping students to better understand the university environment, how to deal with faculty, TAs, and many social norms of the universities in Chile. The local students involved in Club Chileno have also acted as tutors and are active in extracurricular IES Abroad Santiago activities like soccer games, tennis, museum trips, and music events.

Community Assistants in Milan, Italy

Our Italian Community Assistants (CAs) are Italian college students or young professionals living in Milan chosen by IES Abroad Milan staff. CAs are an integral part of the learning and living community in Milan. They live in the IES Abroad apartments, serve as liaisons to the intricacies of the Italian culture, and spend time at our Milan Center answering questions.

CAs help develop a residential community through a variety of activities and programs. These activities usually include cooking and eating together, helping you with your Italian language skills, advice on the best places to go shopping, going out together to museums, and watching typical Italian films.

Thanks to our CAs, you’ll gain insight into Italian culture through a firsthand source and enhance your cultural immersion. An added bonus, the long-lasting friendships that develop—many past IES Abroad students have said that their relationships with their CAs were the defining factor in their experience abroad! Check out this video to see some of our goofy Community Assistants on film:

Conversation Club in Nantes, France

IES Abroad is the only American study abroad program in Nantes, making opportunities for integration much more likely, provided you are willing to make the effort. We have an English/French Conversation Club that meets every week at the IES Abroad Nantes Center as a forum for you to practice your French and for French students to practice their English.

We also have a very close relationship with the Université de Nantes, and our students benefit from substantial contact with faculty and students—including a joint course in translation, which makes for an ideal setting to meet French friends. In addition, our Social Coordinator in Nantes organizes activities each week where French and IES Abroad students can interact.

E-Pals in Tokyo, Japan

Before our IES Abroad Tokyo students arrive on-site, they are connected with an E-Pal, a local university student. E-Pals exchange a few emails, meet on arrival day, and spend time together over the course of the semester. From exchanging slang to learning about larger cultural differences and current events, this program is a great way to have a new friend in Tokyo before you even arrive, and help you make friends while abroad.

Italian Resident Assistants in Siena, Italy

When you study at IES Abroad Siena, some apartments have an Italian roommate who serve as an Italian Resident Assistant (RA). Students who don’t have an Italian RA living directly with them still have access to them during social activities and events. The Italian RAs are usually college students or young working people, some of whom may be older than the typical American student. Check out this video about our students and their Italian RA roommates:

Cultural Companions in Barcelona, Spain

IES Abroad Barcelona staff assign a Barcelona Cultural Companion (BCC) to groups of apartments. BCCs are also assigned to groups of IES Abroad students living with local residents and they’ll assist you with cultural immersion and include you in fun social activities they plan. These tutores culturales are there to help you discover what Barcelona has to offer! Additionally, they perform health and safety checks in the apartments to ensure that everything is working properly.

Italian Student Companions in Rome, Italy

Carefully chosen by IES Abroad Rome staff, Italian Student Companions (ISCs) are college students from Roma Tre University who live with IES Abroad students. ISCs serve as a close, direct connection to Italian culture and function as cultural mediators. They can help you overcome the difficulties related to cultural differences and with simple “urban survival” (getting to know the city, public transportation, shopping hours, post office, etc.). ISCs organize activities and outings—from cooking and eating together to exploring events in different Roman neighborhoods—they’ll help you integrate into the local community.

Language Partners in Shanghai, China

IES Abroad Shanghai students enrolled in the Economy, Business & Society Program have a Language Partner (LP) reach out before the semester starts. Both undergraduate and postgraduate students, LPs help you acclimate to life in China. From picking you up at the airport and taking you on a campus tour to helping you buy a cell phone during orientation week, they're there to support you when you need it. LPs meet with you at least once a week, and many are students majoring in Engineering, Chemistry, and Physics at our partner institution Shanghai Jiao Tong University (SJTU).

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