1. Express your interests and extend invitations for others to join you on exploring these interests
- Music taste- festivals, concerts, and smaller venues are constantly showcasing big names that you and your group may be interested in, or local talents you’ve never heard of. In London, jazz bands are constantly playing at restaurants and bars, clubs will have a specific genre they’ll adhere to (for example- the Beyonce bar), and cheap concerts will play at public parks, almost every weekend.
- Food taste- I personally bonded with several girls from other universities because of our similar diets. While very stereotypical for our major, a lot of us were pescatarian, vegetarian, or vegan. This meant that we were constantly sharing new places we had discovered, and going as a group to try out each others favorites. London has such an amazing variety of food, and does an incredible job at including vegetarian/vegan options (that are just as delicious as the meat dishes). I had expressed to my newly found friend group that I loved Indian food, and while that was not the most popular opinion in the group, one other girl was equally ecstatic that she had a food adventure buddy (try “Masala” in South Kensington for some cheap curry in a cozy environment). Just as you may have a to-do list for the locations, or activities you may want to do, creating a shared list of amazing restaurants you want to try is a very easy way to make connections.
Try going on a hike, going on a film locations tour, visit museums, go to antique shows, farmers markets… These are just a few examples of points of interest that allow you to ease into great friendships through new found commonalities.
2. Be aware that people may clash
Whether you are just meeting the people you’re traveling with, or are pretty familiar with them, you’ll find that traveling, or living with them is a whole nother story. I found that although there may be some tense situations, people are much more likely to handle the situation respectfully, and maturely while abroad. Everyone is on the trip to gain as much as they can, and check off their personal goals for self improvement. There is no time to hold grudges, and hold on to negative situations when there is so much to be open to when traveling abroad. You may feel as though your opinion and way of traveling is superior. While you can encourage, and discuss with others how you may feel they can improve their experience, you should try to remain respectful on how they handle their journey. While you may want to spend every second of your trip out and about, meeting locals, and immersing yourself in a new community, others may feel very differently. Some people may have a harder time adjusting to local customs (and may never try to do so), may tend to continue their everyday routines from home in a new location, or simply not understand why the new culture they’re surrounded by functions in the way that it does. I’ve also heard this from several other people that have traveled abroad in groups. Everyone will have extremely individual journeys while exploring abroad, and while this may cause individuals to clash, the trip will be much more fulfilling if everyone focuses on personal fulfillment. This may also mean that you find people in your group that have a similar attitude to you in the way that they wish to experience their time abroad, and will allow you to amplify your enjoyment.
3. It’s completely fine to have alone time
If you are studying abroad and are traveling in a group that may include people from different courses/tracks, you may have very differing schedules. I found myself in this position at London College of Fashion. My advice would be to make friends with those that may have a similar workload to you, so that you do not feel completely isolated when taking a rigorous course abroad. While “FOMO” is something that everyone deals with while traveling in a group, it’s important that you are comfortable with exploring the city alone, and balancing your academics. It may feel intimidating to venture off alone, but it is extremely important to do so, especially if others may not share that particular interest. Don’t let other’s interests hinder you from checking off the experiences you are extremely excited about. Go on that hike that may be too intimidating to others, check out that filming location from the show that no one else watches, go check out the museum you missed out on going with your group…
And as someone who had previously gone on this trip told me before my trip abroad, there is no need to feel guilty about doing nothing while in an amazing city. I struggled with this, but it is extremely true. When I had a heavy workload and felt trapped, I was able to work around staying in my flat by continually changing my work location. If this might help your productivity, and calm your fears of not truly taking in your new environment, try it out! Go to the park, a secluded coffee shop in a neighborhood you’ve always wanted to walk through, or a museum’s cafe!
Traveling in a group can be overwhelming and a hassle sometimes. However, finding a few like-minded people within this group is extremely easy, and will transform your trip for the better. Sharing this transformative experience with these people will bring you all closer together, and you never know… you may leave with lifelong friends.