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Winning friends: how to meet new people while teaching overseas

We know from speaking with teachers who have been placed through Teach Away to teach overseas that many of them have been worried about being able to settle in and make friends while abroad. This is a completely normal concern: everyone wants to connect with others on some level. Having friends is an important part of daily life while abroad — in many cases, your friends will act more like family while you’re teaching away: you’ll share holidays together, classrooms, and sometimes even apartments!

Expanding your friend circle can seem like a daunting task. How difficult it is to meet new people will vary from country to country. In some countries you’ll find locals to be really warm and welcoming, and in others, you’ll have to stretch yourself a little further. But we’ve put together some helpful tips to get you started:

  • Class meetup: try asking your students (if they’re adults, of course!) if they have a favorite local restaurant that they’d like to take an after-school field trip to together. This is a good chance to get to know your students on a more personal level and talk with some of them about things other than schoolwork.

  • Fill your calendar with events: try local festivals, art openings, and cultural events to get exposed to more people with similar interests.

  • Find a coffee shop haunt: or a favorite place for an after-class beer. Whatever it is, the more you show up at one spot, the more likely the shopkeepers will be to chat you up.

  • Connect with friends’ friends: use the connections you have to make new ones you might not even know about. Write to your friends who have traveled where you’re headed and ask them to connect you with any friends that they may have made while abroad.

  • Be a ‘yes’ man (or woman!): when you get invited to something, go, even if it doesn’t seem immediately appealing to you. Who knows who you’ll meet and what doors the invitation will open! But be safe about this — don’t accept invites to someone’s house if you’ve just met them.

  • Join a class: whether it’s a language class, an exercise class, or even a volunteer group that meets weekly, it’s a great way to connect with the same group of people each week and maybe make a connection with one or two individuals.

  • Try Facebook groups: find groups in your area that cater to your specific interests or your career. It shouldn’t be hard to find TEFL groups in Hong Kong or one that connects expats living in Thailand.

  • Try a language exchange: there are all kinds of websites (like Conversation Exchange) that help connect locals with English speakers in an effort to learn language in affordable, conversational ways. It’s also a great way to connect with locals and make new friends.

Are you teaching overseas? Share with us how you’ve made some of your friends thus far!

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