Making Friends Abroad

Making Friends Abroad

Earlier this year, Stirling from London, won one of our First Time Traveler awards. He is taking a gap year to work, travel, and learn new things before heading off to university.  Stirling has just returned from his Teach in a Homestay in South Korea and has sent us a bit about how he made friends during his 3 month stay. Enjoy!


I travelled to South Korea alone with a few basic phrases but otherwise not knowing the language. I didn’t know what to expect. I needn’t have worried. I met lots of people and made good friends which made my overall experience way more fun and enriching. So here are some tips on how to make friends whilst travelling.

A little from my experience

Having arrived in the country I was keen to try and learn the language so I would be able to join in with the family I was living with and make the most of my experience. I reached out to my local Greenheart contact to help me find a suitable class and they were really helpful. I started attending classes in my third week and this was a great place to meet like-minded people from all over the world all wanting to learn the language. The classes gave me an immediate network of people, we would go out for lunch or for walks in Seoul most days once class had finished. One day we all went to a Korean tea house, another day we attempted to climb Mount Bukhansan together but due to the weather didn’t make it to the top.

Some of the language schools also offer workshops. This photo is from a temple food making workshop I did which was a lot of fun and the food tasted amazing!

One of the good friends I made was completely by accident. I struck up conversation with him in a queue for a ride in Lotte World and we instantly connected. Through this friend I met more people and attended a free Saturday class, where I helped to teach some English and they helped with my Korean. After the class we all went and got lunch together, then I was shown around the Olympic Park.

We met up a few more times and they showed me around more of Seoul. We went to Yeouido Park where we ate ramen whilst watching the sun set over Seoul. It was great to see how the city came to life in the evening.

Here are some things you can do to enrich your experience:

  • Before you travel, ask your family friends if they have been to the country you are travelling to and if they know anyone in or from the country they can connect you with.
  • On arriving in the country, sign up to a local language school or a community class. This is where I met lots of interesting people from all over the world, all with different perspectives and stories.
  • Be interested in all the people around you and take every opportunity to engage in conversation. You never know what you might learn. If they are another foreign student, compare travel goals, you might find something you each want to do and could do together.

If you are feeling shy here are some conversation starters that I used:

  1. ‘I just got here and was wondering if you’ve done anything so far that you would recommend.’
  2. Give them a compliment and follow up with a question.
  3. ‘I am going to grab some food. Would you like to join?’
  4. ‘Have you done ____ yet?  I was thinking about going though I wasn’t sure if it was worth it.’
  5. One I found myself using a lot was:  ‘Your English is really good. Where did you learn?’ This really opens up conversations with non-native English speakers as they get to practice their speaking skills and also talk about their favourite subject, themselves.

I met a lot of great people during my trip and plan to stay in touch with a few, others were more passing acquaintances, which is also fine. You will find people you instantly click with, with others it takes time, either way just keep doing what you find interesting and you will have a great time.

Final bits of advice

My final piece of advice is relax and enjoy the experience but also be aware and respectful of your environment. You should always let the family or person you are living with know your plans and if you are going out to meet people. They will feel responsible for your safety. Also you will be expected to do things with the family you are living with so check their plans first before arranging to do things on your own to make sure it is a convenient time.

I’ll leave you with this motto I used which helped me enjoy every moment of my journey: ‘Expect nothing and be grateful for everything’.
Good luck with your travels and future adventures.

THANK YOU STIRLING for sharing your experience and good traveler advice!  If you are interested in a Homestay program, or one of our Teach Abroad or Work Abroad programs, please visit our website!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *