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How to Step Out of Your Social Bubble

Post by Katrina Dan Zhao, UBC Vantage Orientation Assistant

One of the biggest challenges many international students face when they first arrive is who they want to hang out with. When chatting to other students online, it seems like you have to make a choice between international or domestic students.

When I first started studying abroad, everyone seemed helpful and kind. They were supportive, and I got the feeling that I could be friends with them - just like in the movies. I pictured myself only hanging out with Canadian students, and I thought this was the “choice” I was going to make. However, the honeymoon phase passed fast - by the third month, I started to get the feeling that while some people were kind to me, they were not really my friends. No matter what I said, they were always smiling and nodding, but they never included me in their lives. I was never invited to their social events, and I felt a lot of pressure to speak English well when I faced language difficulties. I felt like deep down inside, they still considered me as an outsider. It made me feel isolated, and I couldn’t talk to anyone about this type of rejection.

The next thing I knew, I was back in my little room Skyping with my friends from back home. I decided that I would try the other option: be friends with only international students or students sharing my own Chinese culture. No matter how different our personalities and values were, I still felt that I’d rather be friends with them instead of being with other people. It was not long until we had major conflicts. We disagreed on so many things and kept on arguing, and that’s when I realized that people should be friends based on your values, not race or nationality - no matter how much more comfortable you think you might be in doing so.

After this realization, I started to make friends with people who shared the same opinion, values and taste in music as me, and I stopped looking at them as just local or international students. That's when the magic happened. I made friends with people of different backgrounds who supported and welcomed me into their lives. I spent valuable time with each one of them, and most importantly, I’m still open to make more friends everyday.

When students study abroad, they tend to put themselves in two extremes when choosing friends, like I did. Both of the ideas were flawed in the same way as it is harshly based on nationality or race. When doing so, you are limiting your social circle, and creating a social bubble for yourself. Both international students and local students cannot be generalized - everyone is unique, and true friendship only grows when you have people who understand you. UBC is a large school with students sharing different opinions, values and backgrounds. This is the perfect place for you to not only get to know people but to also get to know yourself. Now that you are here, take the opportunity to develop a diverse friendship - and remember, socializing is about you.