It is hard being in a new environment and having to make friends. Honestly, I was very lonely the first week of school. I made the mistake of not getting acquainted with people from my home university that were also going to CUHK. Also, my roommate decided to skip orientation, so I did not have a roommate when I was living in my orientation dorm. Because of my mistakes, I have some tips I want to share to help you better transition and avoid loneliness while studying abroad. I know that some of these tips may be obvious and some things you have already learned during your freshmen year of college, but it never hurts to review.
1) ATTEND/PARTICIPATE IN ORIENTATION: I believe that most programs have an orientation period. Depending on your program, it can be short of long. Nonetheless, this is pretty much where you will first starting making friends. This is because all the other exchange students are new and will be looking for people to hang out with just like you. I made the mistake of hardly being there for my orientation. I was hanging out with my dad meeting relatives, so I was not there when everyone was becoming acquainted with one another and becoming friends. It is harder to be friend an individual than a group. Once groups are formed, it will be a lot harder to approach them.
2) GET IN TOUCH & SOCIALIZE WITH FELLOW STUDENTS FROM YOUR HOME UNIVERSITY GOING TO THE SAME SCHOOL: I was dumb and decided not to get in touch with people from my school going to CUHK. I thought I was just going to make friends there. Now this is not an all around bad idea. I know some people who comfortably only hang out with people from their home university/native country. Looking back, I am glad that I was not tied down like that, but it does not mean that you cannot branch out from your group if you wanted to. It is nice to start off having a safety net. Anyways, the point of this is to not isolate yourself or else you really will be in isolation. At first, it is your roommate(s) and schoolmates that will invite you to hang out before you start finding your group. Like I said, I did not have a roommate or did not know any schoolmates, and that is why I was so lonely during orientation. However, if you made the same mistakes as me, it does get better as long as you put yourself out there to meet people and make friends.
3) GET ALONG WITH YOUR ROOMMATE: This is simple: you want to have a comfortable living situation, right, especially since you are abroad. You do not want roommate drama. This is even more true, if you are there for a semester, like me. It is just too short and not worth it. Also, if you have a local student as your roommate, like me, they can introduce you to the country through their eyes. They can suggest you places to go to that may not be in travel books.
4) NOW IF YOU ARE DORMING: Some exchange students end up only hanging out with exchange students. Of course, that is very interesting and you can meet people from all different parts of the world. However, wouldn’t it be nice to also talk to locals? It can be hard especially if you do not speak the language. However, most people in the world have to know English especially by the time they are in college. It may be difficult, but it does not mean that you should not try. It is fun and interesting seeing the country you are in through the eyes of the locals. Also, like I said before, they can give some good recommendations. The place to start is in your dorm. You can try communicating with your floor mates/hall mates. In Hong Kong, their college exam, has an English portion. The college kids here can understand English. Some may be better than others, but still, try. It is nice to know what is good on campus and nice near by restaurants. This can also be good practice if you are learning or want to learn the native language of that country.
Well, that is all I have for now. If you would like, you can check out my other tips. I will also be posting an opinion piece on the three people you meet on a Hong Kong college campus. I wrote an opinion piece earlier about the Forever 21 in Hong Kong