In my last post, I talked about how just showing up to things can have a huge impact on your happiness, and can ward of feelings of homesickness and loneliness while you’re away on exchange. I thought that idea deserved its own post because, well…it’s much easier said than done.
Since being on exchange, I couldn’t even tell you how many Facebook events I’ve clicked “attending” on, and then chickened out at the last minute. On clubs day during Frosh week, I signed up for every club imaginable, got on their email lists so I wouldn’t miss any news about upcoming events, and told myself that being on exchange would be different – I really, truly would get involved in clubs and societies!
Flash forward a few weeks, and the emails and Facebook invites about upcoming events started rolling in. I wrote them all down in my calendar, RSVPed on Facebook, and had every intention of going. But some excuse always came up, and I hardly ever went. You know what I’m talking about – you get an invitation to an awesome-sounding event, you tell yourself you are 100% in and ready to go, but then the day of the event rolls around and you just have to spend the evening having a Netflix marathon with your friends.
Some events were things that I wouldn’t have been interested in (i.e. I signed up for a knitting club, but have no desire to knit, and I don’t even know how), but there are other things that I wish I had made the effort to show up to. There are a seemingly endless number of societies and clubs at the University of Edinburgh, and lots of them have events that cater to exchange and international students. They were running tours of the city, trips to cities around Scotland, pub nights, and other activities that I knew I wanted to be a part of.
So why is it so hard to show up? If there are so many great, fun things going on for people on exchange, why can it feel so hard to go? I asked some of my fellow exchange student friends about why this can be so hard, and we came up with two reasons.
Reason # 1: You’re out of practice. Most people who go on exchange haven’t had to go to events and try to make new friends in a long time. Frosh week at our home university was a long time ago for us, and we’re used to having an established group of friends and activities that we do. It’s a weird experience to have to start building that all over again.
Reason # 2: You think it’ll be awkward. And, let’s be honest, it probably will be a little bit. But all of us agreed that the awkwardness never lasts, and it’s never as bad as your excuse-making brain tells you it will be. Plus, everyone else is in the same boat as you – no one knows anyone, everyone’s a little bit tense, but everyone also wants to make friends and have fun.
So now that you know why you find it hard to show up, what’s my advice? Embrace the awkwardness and start showing up to everything you can. I know, I know, it’s easier said than done. But taking the first plunge makes every time after that a million times easier. After going to just one awkward pub night, I felt like I had my friend-making, event-attending groove back. And chances are, something will stick, and you’ll make a breakthrough – you’ll find an activity you love, or a club you really want to be a part of, and hopefully some good friends. And if not, you’ll get some good stories out of it, which is one of the major fringe benefits of being on exchange.