“What if I don’t find any friends?!” I asked before leaving for my student exchange.
“Honestly I do not know anyone who has been on an exchange and not found friends”, my co-worker and friend answered. “It is impossible to not find any friends”, she continued.
I was worried about not finding friends but then again I was assured that I would find at least some friends through different events. And now I am very thankful and happy about the people I have met.
Finding friends – other exchange students
It turned out to be very easy to find friends. The university provided a pick-up service from the airport so already on the airport I met a French-Vietnamese girl and we ended up spending most of the first day together. Then of course I have the buddy group with two other exchange students, a roommate and group projects in the courses I take and in all of these I meet new people. So, yes, it is impossible to not meet any new friends here.
At the trip last weekend to the South of South Korea I met other exchange students in the bus and we played this game called Dark Stories (where you act as a detective to solve different stories – you can download the app to try yourself) and one thing led to another and now I am in a chat group for persons interested in photography and board games. It feels like people are very including and therefore I do not feel alone.
The only time I felt alone was on the first day when I packed up my stuff in my room and my roommate had not arrived yet. Then I just sat in my room thinking “what am I supposed to do now” but then I decided to trying to find the girl I met at the airport to go and get the Korean SIM cards. Luckily I remembered her name and could find her online. The first day was great and we explored the city a bit, got some things in order and had some food.
Finding Korean friends
Meeting Koreans is surprisingly easy. A normal remark from exchange students are that exchange students hang out with other exchange students so I thought it would be like that for me as well. And even though it is true that I got mostly new friends that are exchange students I still meet Koreans.
I got a Korean buddy that contacted me when I was still in Finland. With the pick-up service (where they said that they will not leave the airport without anyone) and the buddy I felt really taken care of even before I came to Korea. As I said in the last post, I was walking around lost in the subway on the first day in Seoul and I met Koreans that now have become friends.
The Koreans do not use WhatsApp and instead they use KakaoTalk. And it is a basic question to ask if someone has KakaoTalk so one can add you there and stay in touch. This also helps with finding friends.
To sum up this post, I could try and explain how it feels in another way… Meeting new people here feels like the people are already my friends. I have the same feeling when I am going to a party or other event back home in Finland where I know a lot of people e.g. organised by my favourite student organisations (shout out to MK and NN). Knowing many people at these events means I can easily do some catching-up with the people who are there. And being on a student exchange at Kyung Hee University feels the same even though I did not know anyone.
For the exchange students it is easy to find something to talk about since they are ‘in the same boat’ and the Koreans always have something interesting to say, for example about the culture which I did not know earlier. And I am only on my third week here, so I still have time left to see how all of this develops. I will probably see some of the people only once in my life but it feels good to meet people and learn something about them and why they have ended up in Seoul. And some I will spend more time with, e.g. with the “base” group.
I guess my co-worker was right in saying that not finding friends on a student exchange is impossible.