Studying abroad is one of the greatest ways to bring people together. Universities throw a bunch of students together in a foreign country where they are learning new landscapes, possibly new languages, and new cultures.
What could go wrong?
Well, just about anything and everything, which is why these experiences help you learn so much about other people.
Traveling establishes a special bond between people, but I think even more so, traveling in your formative years while balancing academics and ties to home creates beautiful memories and relationships.
It’s pretty easy to become and remain connected to people you share these experiences with while you’re still in your host country. You’re either a metro stop or a class period away from seeing your friends and planning your weekend adventures.
Being back home and staying in touch with your friends from abroad is a different story. It took me about a year after my program to see some of my good friends from Bilbao. Now, we maintain communication and plan trips together at least once per year.
It’s not always easy, but this is how I’ve maintained my friendships from study abroad.
- Use social media: Of course this topped my list. Snapchat, Instagram, and Facebook rule my generation and a lot of how communication is handled. But, especially for keeping in touch with your peers, you’ll need to follow a lot more than Facebook status updates. Don’t doubt the power of LinkedIn, Tumblr, and Twitter. I’ve found it important to keep up with career advancements and changes that might bring some of your peers to jobs/cities near you. It’s fun seeing how we are all growing and I get new perspectives from every site I’m on. Add everyone’s social platforms before you part ways to stay updated and to keep in touch.
- Work off schedules: I communicate preferred travel periods to my friends and they do the same to me so we can all work around each others’ schedules. We plan our visits months in advance so we can plan for work schedules, personal trips, etc. A shared Google Calendar (or your online calendar of choice) is really handy for planning!
- Get apps: I used Viber while abroad to keep in touch with my family along with contacting my friends in my program. Now that I’m back home, it’s been really useful for contacting locals I met, as well as anyone whose phone number I didn’t get.
- Subscribe to program newsletters: This is a fun way to see how your program is evolving, but there’s also some great study abroad alumni events and opportunities you can participate in with your friends. It’s like reliving your trip without the long flight!
- Practice your learned language and challenge your friends: Learning a language is a challenge in itself, and keeping up with what you learned is an equally difficult challenge. Duolingo allows you to learn, practice, and challenge friends to a language of your choice. Create clubs with your friends not only to talk and see what they’re up to, but also practice your language skills!
Of course, the most important ingredient to all this is communication. Social media will help with that, but even quick texts on holidays or when you’re thinking of a fun memory will make all of this so easy and worthwhile!