Naina Vyas ‘20 is a psychology major with a health science minor who studied abroad at City, University of London in Fall 2018. She shares her study abroad story and tips on making friends while abroad.

Naina in LondonHi, my name is Naina Vyas and last semester I studied in London, UK at City University. I chose to study in London for a multitude of reasons: its vibrant and diverse culture, amazing food, the fact that there was not a big language barrier, the ability to travel to other places in Europe, and the courses I could take as a psychology major. One of the many personal goals I had while abroad was to fully immerse myself in London culture and meet as many locals as possible. During my first few weeks in London I found this quite hard. Being the new-bee is never easy. Everyone already seemed to have their own routine with their own friend group and not many people conversed in my big lecture classes. I was fortunate to live with other study abroad students, which made my transition to London a lot easier, but I still lacked interaction with local students. Luckily, I was able to attend the Club Fair at my university. I went with other study abroad students and we got to see all of the diverse clubs and societies our uni had to offer. Many clubs and societies were only accepting members for the full year, so I could not join all of the ones I wanted to. However, this forced me to get out of my comfort zone and try new things.

One of the main things I noticed about City was the immense diversity on campus. Coming from a smaller school, I was surprised at how many international students there were. More specifically, there were so many South Asians. Throughout my entire academic experience, I never had a lot of Indian friends who were my age. There were only a handful in my grade and I lacked that sense of cultural belonging. Therefore, I decided to really tap into that while abroad. By the end of the club fair, I ultimately signed up for Indian society, dance society, girl up society, and bhangra (a type of Indian dance) society.

Naina in London with friendsA few weeks went by and each society had their own meet and greet mixer. I was very nervous to go by myself, since none of my other study abroad friends could join. In fact I remember going to the campus several times and standing outside the door, debating if I should back out; I was so anxious and vulnerable. Eventually, other people approached behind me, which forced me to open the door and go in – and I’m so grateful I did. After the first few awkward minutes I was able to meet so many new people from similar backgrounds. What was especially nice about
these societies was that I was able to connect to others through music, dance, and culture. Continuously putting myself outside my comfort zone helped me gain many lifelong friends.

It only takes talking to one or two new people. I made a few friends from those mixers, and they introduced me to their friends, who introduced me to their other friends, and so on. In the beginning, there were definitely times where I felt like I was an outsider. But throughout the semester, I was able to assimilate very easily in the culture because of all of the friends I made. Getting an insider’s look at life in London added a whole other layer to my study abroad experience. I highly encourage anyone who gets the chance to travel abroad to talk to new people.

Ways to Meet Locals:

  • Naina in LondonAttend any club or society mixers. It really doesn’t matter what type of club it is. Think about it this way: You are only there for a short amount of time – you might as well learn or try something new. This is the perfect time to try and learn a new instrument, play a different sport, and explore different cultures.
  • Put yourself out there. There is no need to be so nervous. Treat this opportunity as a fresh start. You have nothing to lose; you can only gain from these experiences! (Also people are usually very excited when they hear our American accents)
  • Don’t get comfortable so fast. The more you talk to new people, the easier it gets. Try to meet as many people from different friend groups so you can get multiple perspectives and insights to add to your overall experience. It’s fun to compare and contrast notes.
  • Be open-minded and “go with the flow”. I found that when I was more spontaneous and ditched my normal day-to-day routine, I was able to explore new areas of London, attend shows I wouldn’t normally go to, try new foods, and get a richer experience overall.
  • Have fun and be yourself! This is such an exciting time in your life. You will probably never get to experience something like this