Studying abroad usually involves meeting a lot of new people. Whether it’s your classmates, advisors, or locals, you probably want to make a great first impression. It’s never a bad time to make friends, right? Wherever you go, you are constantly forming connections with those around you and expanding your network. Often times, you don’t even think about it as it’s happening.
After living in one place for a while, it can be easy to get comfortable with who we know and stop putting ourselves out there. But what is familiar isn’t all there is. What’s awesome about studying abroad is that you are forced out of that comfort zone you created for yourself. Luckily, you’re also given plenty of opportunities to practice your introduction skills and connect with like-minded individuals.
If meeting new people is something that we are all going to experience time and time again, especially while abroad, why not make it as seamless as possible? Why not get really good at it?
What if we saw meeting people as an exciting opportunity instead of as a chore? What if we embraced the initial awkwardness and discomfort it entails and allowed ourselves to be brave?
No matter where you fall on the introvert-extrovert spectrum, we can all use friendly reminders like these once in a while. So here are some tips for making an excellent introduction:
1. Be the person who reaches out.
Don’t let the fear of speaking up first keep you from starting a conversation with an acquaintance or a stranger. Nine times out of ten, they’ll be relieved that you took the initiative. Remember that people you don’t know yet are still just people. We all get nervous sometimes and that’s totally okay.
2. Master the hand-shake.
Customary greetings differ all over the world. For Americans, it’s essential to know how to give a confident, firm hand-shake. No matter the occasion, people will appreciate when you go out of your way to greet them individually – even while abroad.
3. Make good eye contact.
It’s good practice to make sure people feel acknowledged when you are talking with them. This is especially important when conversing with multiple people at one time. Be intentional about making eye contact every so often with each person who is present. That way, everyone feels like they are included in the conversation.
4. Don’t be afraid of small talk.
Whatever your opinion of small talk is, it’s something that will always be a part of meeting new people. So let’s learn to embrace it. Ask questions, tell stories, and share what you are willing to. You can get to more fun topics after breaking the ice.
5. Be a great listener.
Don’t listen to respond, listen to understand. If you are always preparing what to say next, you’ll miss out on what other people are taking the time to share with you. People like knowing that they’re really being heard.
6. Validate other people’s experiences.
A great way to let people know that you understand them is to practice validating what they tell you. It can be as simple as saying a phrase of acknowledgement or restating their point in your own words. Doing this shows that you have genuine interest in and respect for what they have to say.
7. Think ahead.
Not every single person you meet will be your cup of tea. But if you feel called to, offer up a method of contacting you after the initial meeting. Whether it’s a formal email or a social media account, let them know that they have the opportunity to stay connected with you moving forward. Relationships of all kinds only strengthen if you continue to nurture them.
8. Don’t forget to smile.
It’s okay to laugh at yourself in the middle of everything. People appreciate authenticity. And a smile is a genuine way to express your good intentions and make people feel comfortable around you.
The next time you’re out meeting new people, remember to have fun. Keep in mind that the skills you get to practice while studying abroad can also be applied to your future endeavours such as job interviews, group projects, presentations, workshops, and more. Make the best of it!