One of the most valuable aspects of studying at an international summer school is the broad variety of other students you will meet. Studying abroad provides a unique opportunity to make new friends and build a global network of brilliant colleagues. Not only are you likely to find other students with similar interests, but their wide range of backgrounds and experiences will open you up to fascinating new ideas and perspectives. In this rapidly globalizing world, taking advantage of opportunities increasingly depends upon knowledge of foreign countries, and as the Chinese proverb goes, “A bosom friend afar, brings distant lands near (海內存知己, 天涯若比鄰)”.
While it is natural to feel anxious about traveling to a new place and meeting new people, remember to keep in mind that everyone arriving at an international summer school is in the same boat and will also be eager to meet you. Furthermore, the only way to get better at dealing with new situations and to begin building your network is to practice. What better way to build these skills than to do so in an environment where you already share many commonalities with the people there. On World Scholars Academy courses your fellow students will be interested in the same subjects, and everyone will also be an exceptional student, so you’ve got two things in common already.
Here are some top tips on how to make new friends on a summer course, especially for those from different countries travelling far from home.
Aristotle first discussed the importance of shared experiences in the formation of friendships in his Nicomachean Ethics, and modern psychologists have later affirmed their significance. Sharing common values and the ability to enhance each other’s lives are also significant determinants of who becomes friends. This makes an international summer school which provides exciting activities an ideal place to make new friends from around the world.
We’ve seen this first-hand with the diverse students on World Scholars Academy summer courses. When students feel passionate about their field of study, it gives them a connection and shared sense of purpose with their peers. Whether it’s stock market investing or medicine, you’ll definitely share interests with your fellow World Scholars. This will make the experience of studying abroad and making new friends a lot easier
MAKE THE FIRST MOVE
It can be intimidating to approach someone you don’t know. However, just by smiling, greeting people, and showing simple good manners you can appear friendly and put forth a positive first impression. Show interest in the other person and keep the interaction light and relaxed. Although it seems obvious, this is what most people respond well to. At World Scholars Academy we also spend time on the first day on activities designed to break the ice and start the course out having fun. Friendships inevitably blossom from there.
An additional tip you might not know is to use mirroring. This means to imitate your conversation partner’s expressions, gestures, and body language to create rapport and a sense of unity. For instance, if the person leans forward while talking, or crosses their arms you can do the same. But be careful not to overdo it, or else your interactions might come across as forced or strange. Next time you are in a face-to-face conversation with someone you like, make a conscious effort to note both you and your interlocutor’s body positions and how you are expressing yourselves. You may be surprised how similar you both are!
People like others who want to learn more about them. Because there are so many different nationalities attending our international summer school, there are fabulous opportunities to find out about other cultures. Just last summer, World Scholars Academy had students joining us from all over North, Central, and South America; Europe; and Asia. So questions pertaining to one’s home country are an excellent way to show interest and initiate a conversation.
You could ask your new friends about the course they are here to study, what their school is like, or about the most exciting experience they’ve ever had. Other great conversation starters include:
Comment on your immediate environment, or an activity that you are doing together. For example, you could say: “At least the summers are not as hot in Hawaii as my city” or “I love the view of the ocean from my window.”
Ask for help with something. Or even better, offer to help. For example ask, “If you have a moment, please could you help me carry my luggage?”
Use compliments, for instance, “Wow, I love your jacket. Where did you get it?” or “So what do you think of Hawaii so far?”, and then introduce yourself. Compliments are a great way to initiate a conversation with someone new, but always make sure your compliments will be interpreted positively.
Learn some jokes. For instance, “I was addicted to the hokey pokey, but luckily I turned myself around” or “What do you call a modest insect? A humble bee” or “What did the janitor say when he jumped out of the closet? Supplies!” Nothing says that you are fun person to hang out with and a fount of positive emotions more than a great sense of humor. So why not memorize a few fun jokes to share at the right opportunity when meeting new people.
The most important thing to remember when meeting new people is their name! Nothing says that you care about someone and are interested in them more than remembering their name. Even better, you could try to remember a detail about something they spoke about, and then ask them about it again the next time you meet. Although it can be difficult to remember the name of someone you just met, a great trick is to repeat their name in your head several times right after you meet them, and then to remind yourself of their name periodically and use it whenever you can during conversation, In addition, make a point of occasionally looking around the room and repeating the named of the people you have met to yourself. It may be difficult at first, but over time you will get better, and you’ll quickly see the social benefits of making an effort to remember other’s names. As the lauded social wizard Dale Carnegie affirms, "Remember a name and call it easily and you have paid a subtle and very effective compliment."
EXTEND THE INTERACTION
If you enjoy getting to know someone and you get a good feeling about that person, extend the interaction by inviting them to the next thing you are doing or setting up a plan to meet them again. It’s easier to plan a specific activity than to propose something general, so suggest a specific time and place that you want to hang out with them later. For example, “It was great meeting another basketball fan – why don’t we go check out the basketball court after lunch?”
Finally, here’s a practical tip. To make lots of new friends at your summer camp this year, make a point of not spending a lot of time in your room. It might be relaxing, but you can’t make friends there. Instead, get out and get social. Challenge yourself to get out and do something new and find out where the action is. You never know where you’ll meet a lifelong friend!
World Scholars Academy offers international summer courses for ages 12-18 delivered online. No matter where you are from, this summer you can enjoy a stimulating course that prepares you for future study and your future career, while making friends that will last a lifetime. As another timeless Chinese proverb goes, “Gold is easier to acquire than a true friend” (黃金萬兩容易得, 一個知心最難尋).
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