In a previous post regarding first impressions of Seoul and Hanyang University, I expressed how it finally dawned on me that I am here in a foreign country by myself, without knowing anyone. I spent the first few days before classes by myself, navigating through campus, trying my best to stay dry. Like the rain, I could not help but think, I really hope my whole trip is not like this.
But as the rain cleared and gave way to the sun, so did my social situation. I would never consider myself to be an overly social person, but by being alone, it really forced me to put myself out there. I also learned that being alone isn’t all that bad.
In all honesty, there is not much of a downside or risk to trying to strike up a conversation with someone. Being in this program provides a vast amount of conversation starters. Where are you from? What is your major? What classes are you taking here? Are you living on or off campus? Where have you been around Seoul so far? Have you ever studied abroad before? With a plethora of topics to talk about and potential people to converse with, there are limitless possibilities. A great positive about the international summer school program is that everyone speaks English. It may not be their first language, but since communicating in English is possible, it can help ease communications.
To make friends, it is important to be proactive and assertive. I have always been a bit nervous to approach groups of people, so I have tried to look for individuals who may be by themselves in my classes and during activities to start initial conversations with. When going to the activities (SM Town and boat cruise), I went by myself, but by the time we arrived at the venue, I was able to strike up a conversation and make friends to have company during the activity. This was all due to me approaching them and talking to them first. There is no guarantee that someone will strike a conversation with you, so if you want to talk to someone, it is best to make your own move first.
Nevertheless, I understand that it can still be very intimidating. To keep things in perspective, I just remember that this program is only four weeks. With such an opportunity, I want to take advantage of it and interact with different people. Worst comes to worst, if a person is not very interested in talking, it is nothing to take personally. There are so many more potential people to talk to.
I am lucky, as the classes I have chosen really require communication and group/partner work, so I am “forced” to get to know and talk to other classmates. Being put in such a scenario with a shared goal or task can really help facilitate conversations with other students. I think it is also helpful to join the Hanyang International Summer School (HISS) Facebook group and Kakaotalk. Many students use those platforms to schedule meetups. Through the HISS moderated Facebook group, I met up with one of the other participants and we had a good time exploring around Gangnam.
These things may seem like common knowledge to some, but I think they are all still important to remember. Traveling to a foreign country can be very intimidating. Experiencing so many new things can be overwhelming and isolating without a strong support system. It makes the time much more fun to meet people and share time and experiences together.