Joining new social circles outside your native tongue

“Complications in communication should not in any way deter you from a once in a lifetime opportunity of studying abroad”


As we grow older entering new social circles becomes harder to achieve, from fewer opportunities to meet new people to less time to get out socially. Time at university offers a multitude of possibilities to interact with people from all over the country, and indeed, world. But for the students who seek to broaden their mind abroad, there are additional obstacles, not least of all, the language barrier.

So how can students cross-linguistic blocks to enrich their friendship group with culturally diverse inhabitants? Here are a few suggestions based on our experience at William Clarence Education.

Music has long been dubbed the universal language, and for good reason, the ‘sound’ has a unique ability to affect everyone regardless of the language being used. The continued growth of Korean pop music is a testament to this fact, in a time where KPop boy-band BTS are selling out London’s O2 and countless American arenas; it’s their music that brings people of all different cultures and backgrounds together despite many not understanding a word of Korean.

Another fairly straightforward way of connecting is through films. Entertainment of all kinds can be a great way to interact with others, but no more so than movies, where subtitles and the portrayal of characters by actors have the ability to bridge the linguistic divide.

Sporting activities or events provide a common interest or hobby to be explored together, particularly with international sports where communication isn’t a necessity to ensure all involved fully understand any rules in play. Team games can be just as effective as one-on-one activities in terms of building connections so don’t shy away from racket sports such as Tennis or Badminton. Stationary games such as Darts or Snooker provide the opportunity to chat while local games are always good to pick up, not only for the social aspect but as a means to fully understand the culture and history of the area you reside in while studying.

Traditional holidays that coincide with an international study trip present a fantastic opportunity to explore the more traditional side of any host nation, festivals such as the Harbin International Ice & Snow Sculpture Festival in China, or the Carnival of Venice in Italy, offer a unique insight into that particular countries culture, whilst also enabling a student to engage with many potentially compatible people from all over the world, from many different backgrounds and cultures.

Volunteering abroad can expand horizons via the experiences garnered in oft time’s poorer areas of a country being visited. By meeting with the local population and seeing the ‘real version’ rather than a picture perfect, neatly prepared university campus or tourist traps. Finding local action groups can help with the leg-work of finding projects requiring assistance, and introduces yet another social circle of like-minded people outside the student body.

There is a multitude of options available for first-timers in a new country; whilst it will naturally feel scary, and intimidating at first, being in a new environment with no one to fall back on in times of need, the opportunities to expand your network are in no short supply.

Complications in communication should not in any way deter you from a once in a lifetime opportunity of studying abroad and being able to immerse yourself in an entirely different way of life. There are ways to combat virtually anything in life, and not speaking a country’s native tongue is no exception to this theory, and you shouldn’t be in any way apprehensive after reading about all the methods that can be used to negate this problem.

About the author: Stephen Spriggs is Managing Director at William Clarence Education, a leading education advisory and consultancy service in the UK.