Making Friends

I used to be very shy. I would actually argue that I still am sometimes. Meeting new people turns me into this little ball of a high pitched voice, short responses and hiding as soon as I possibly can. Well being on exchange doesn’t exactly let me have the opportunity to do that. I have to put myself out there, and I have to talk to people – whether I like it or not.

Since coming here I have met a lot of people, and I genuinely like a lot of them and am becoming more comfortable around a small group of people. But until today I never felt like I was making real friendships. I have found that it is really easy for me to hide in my room and only interact with people when I need to. While I do love spending time in my room, it can get a little lonely at times. But today changed that for me.

To be honest, I was dreading today a little bit. I start class at 10:00 and I keep going until 17:00. I was not excited. My first class was taught by a guest who put us into groups where we had to work together. The task was fairly simple and one I have done before: name the tv or movie based on the theme song. I actually bonded with a lot of people over my lack of knowledge of popular UK television. Doctor Who wasn’t even on the list, I mean that’s not fair!

My second class was actually the first lecture we were having so I was a little nervous about having to meet a new group all over again. While I was walking there, I passed a teacher who leads one of my lectures and one of my seminars. She recognized me and stopped to say hi and ask how I was doing because she remembered that I was an exchange student. That was amazing. It turns out, she was teaching this class as well. She likes to start a new class by having everyone share a bit about themselves. I dreaded this the first time she had done it, but this time it was fun because she already knew me and she knew what kind of questions to ask so that it wasn’t awkward (mainly: weather here versus weather in Canada). A lot of the students in the class had just returned from exchange so we all shared stories for a bit. The best part was that people were actually interested in listening to me talk about my life. One girl stayed after class and asked if we could go for coffee sometime. She said she would love to hear more about Canada and she could even show me around Glasgow. That was amazing, and I am really looking forward to making plans with her.

I was excited for my last class, with the same teacher I mentioned above. I spent a lot of time before class talking with a few of the girls beside me, one of them even knew the town I grew up in! It’s a pretty small town so even up in Ottawa some people don’t know where it is. We’re working on an experiment in that class, and I really like the girls in my group. There is another group doing the same topic as us, so we spent most of the class together running the experiment ourselves and taking turns putting our hands in ice water. After we had finished, we had some time left so we all sat and talked about our travel experiences (one girl had just come from exchange in Holland and another had travelled to Thailand not long ago). It was nice to sit with a group of girls and just chat like I might do at home with my friends. It was also the first time I really noticed a difference in the way they speak. Not so much the accents, but the actual language being used to express different things. It was awesome but kind of hard to follow at times…

The cherry on top of the cake was running into people that I knew on the way home. One of the girls from my flat was going for a run and she said she had knocked on my door before she left and was upset that I wasn’t there. This is such a random thing, but it makes such a difference when you are new somewhere. I remember the first time at Carleton I ran into someone in the tunnels. It makes you feel like you are starting to get to know a place and the people in it.

So for the first time today, I felt like I was really fitting in here. It’s not like I have been miserable since coming here, I actually haven’t been hit with the homesickness yet. In fact the closest I’ve come to wanting to go home is when I talk to people from work – I kind of miss my job. But 23 days into this adventure and I feel like I am starting to make real friends as opposed to the people you hang out with out of convenience. And that feels pretty damn good.

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Group Work

I used to hate group work in school because it meant I had to talk to my classmates. I would make sure that I was sitting alone in my classes, and spread my stuff to the seats beside me so that nobody would talk to me. I would go to my lectures, learn what I needed to, and go home and hang out with my friends.

That is not exactly an option here. While my lectures are large, all my modules have seminars that are about 20 people each. During these seminars we do a lot of group work. Like they are based around group work. So I have to meet people, which usually I hate, but I am starting to welcome it.

Back home I have my group of friends so I don’t really need to meet people in my classes. Over here I still don’t know a lot of people so meeting people in my classes is really nice. Since we’re all in class together, we already have something in common so striking up a conversation isn’t that hard.

Now I probably won’t go back to Carleton eager to do group work or meet new people in my classes, but I’m enjoying it while I am here.