Many students cite immersion – cultural and/or linguistic – as one of their mains goals while studying away. Here are some suggestions on how to intentionally immerse yourself:
Do you play an instrument or a sport? Do you have a hobby? Find an individual or group who share your interests.
Working on learning a language? Find a native speaker of the local language who would like to learn English (or another language you speak) and take turns practicing and learning languages.
Make a meal for friends, classmates, homestay family, professors, etc. Share your favorite recipes from home. This can be used as an entrée into discussing cultural differences – cuisine-related and otherwise.
Enrolled at a local university? Join a school club. If you’re in a student organization at Mac, chances are you can find a similar group in your study away destination. If not, pursue a new interest.
Are you on a group-oriented program and take all your classes with students from the U.S.? Studying on or near a local university’s campus can be a great way to meet local peers, hear about events and get a feel for what it’s like to be a local college student.
Spending too much time with other students from the U.S.? Make a conscious decision to take yourself away from the group. This could mean dinner with a local friend or going to an event (lecture, concert, film, etc.) alone. Depending upon the local culture, it can be easier to make connections with locals when alone as compared to being with a large group of U.S. students.
Do you find yourself spending most of your out-of-class time with people who are about the same age as you? Getting to know people older and younger than you can help deepen your understanding of your host culture. If you’re living with a homestay family, hang out with the parents or grandparents as well as the children. If you’re not living with a family, but have made friends with local peers, ask to visit their home. You might hit it off with another member of the family too. People who are older than college students may respond well if you ask them to teach you something. Ask to learn how to prepare a local dish, watch a sports game, play chess, etc.
Just like checking out citypages.com to see what’s going on in Minneapolis St. Paul, you should try to research and attend local events. Concerts, films, lectures, performances, festivals, etc. Can’t find anything? Ask professors, program staff, and others for suggestions.
Looking for something to do after class? In many countries, cafés, restaurants, community centers and other places where people gather post fliers. Join a book club, learn how to tango, join a knitting circle, etc.
Interested in knowing how a certain aspect of life works where you’re studying, but find it’s not being explained in your classes? Do some research on your own! It doesn’t have to demand too much of your time and effort, you’ll learn something you didn’t know before, and you’ll connect with locals along the way. You could investigate how fresh produce reaches markets in the city where you’re studying, or find out the story behind a statue that you walk by everyday.