Making New Friends on Campus
Before coming to China there were a few things I felt unprepared for. First, as a relatively introverted person with minimal Chinese speaking skills, I knew I would be faced with many challenges. After the first couple of weeks, thanks to my Chinese tutor provided by TBC and the Chinese I had learned, I was easily able to navigate through things like ordering food, calling a taxi, and so on. However, one thing I struggled with in the beginning was making friends with local Chinese people.
In my circumstance, I am one of two TBC students this semester due to it being the first semester TBC is open for students after the COVID-19 pandemic. Thankfully the other student is my friend from my home college. Even though both of us are introverted and not the type to approach people, we knew we had to change our mindset while being abroad to make friends and to get the most out of our abroad experience. Arriving at the beginning of the academic year also poses another challenge. Club fairs and events for joining extracurriculars don’t begin until late October in China because UIBE students don’t get a lot of free time at first. This meant I had to find another way to initiate conversations with students on campus.
Other than being introverted and a beginner in the Chinese language, I also have the challenge of being incredibly unathletic. Despite this, every night from August to mid-October I accompanied my fellow TBC student Pasheen to the “playground,” the recreational fields at the heart of campus, so she could shoot hoops at the basketball courts. UIBE campus has a big playground with a track and open field where people can play soccer, frisbee, football, and baseball. Next to it are a series of basketball, tennis, and volleyball courts. In the beginning, we would gravitate towards empty courts where my friend and I could shoot alone. However, craving social interactions, we warmed up to the idea of joining people already shooting around.
Overtime, my friend started playing with the same girls every night while I went running around the track. Before we knew it, we started making friends and hanging out aside from in the playground (a relief for me). Before the cold autumn season set in, I was even pressured into playing a few games with my friends and some people on the court. I remember my friend laughing at me because despite being the tallest on the court, I was the worst at shooting. Still, it’s not something I regret doing. Around midterm season we stopped frequenting the playground and eventually had to stop cause of the increasingly cold weather. Regardless, the time we got to spend making friends at the playground was essential in keeping the friends I have today.
Through this experience, I learned that playing sports is a universal language. Even though a lot of the Chinese students we played with know some English, playing games together truly allows you to let loose and have fun without the worry of a language barrier. You just need to know some basic rules and have the willingness to laugh at yourself when you make a mistake. I wholeheartedly encourage students who don’t like to play sports or find themselves to be more on the unathletic side to step out of their comfort zone while abroad and watch as they make new friends.
Thankfully, everyone here is very nice and like anywhere else, some students are reserved and may not approach you first, but others will approach you first. You can choose to be the ones to initiate or not but either way finding something you guys can mutually do, like playing sports, is the first step. From there, friendships blossom.
By Nabeeha Misbah, Fall 2023 TBC Student