Many of our students come abroad without knowing anyone else on the program. Abbey Bennett, a junior at Franklin and Marshall College, is the only one from her school on LEAD Cape Town but quickly came up with some #protips on how to make the most of the experience!
I found out about LEAD Cape Town from an ambassador to my school. I am the only person here from my school. As I boarded the plane to take me to Cape Town I began to worry. There are 70 girls and only 6 guys on this trip while 90% of my friend group back home is male. To make matters worse, I am plagued by an everlasting issue: social awkwardness. When I am stuck in a large group of new people I talk too much, miss cues, and generally become extremely nervous. Naturally, when we landed, I was already scared and running every possible scenario in my head; however, none of these terrible things happened. Everyone, staff or student, goes out of their way to make you feel welcome. People invited me to eat, shop, and relax with them despite the fact that I thought I was failing terribly at talking to them.
This experience has taught me that sometimes I need to do things without fear, whether that is going to dinner with people I have never talked to or posting plans on the Facebook group and hoping people want to come with me. As long as you try to make friends here, you will. Having the commonality of being in a foreign country together allows people to open their hearts not just to new experiences, but to new people. People here are accepting so it is the perfect place to be myself. I also learned that I am not the only person here who feels they are socially awkward. Actually, everyone has similar feelings to what I encounter everyday. I am not alone.
That said there are a few things I had to do to come to those realizations. I will list them here so that if any other socially awkward souls planning to come on this trip read this, they will know some of the things that could help them have an amazing experiences. Here are 10 things a socially awkward person should do while in Cape Town.
1) Talk to as many people as possible, even if they seem unapproachable.
2) Ask to come along with people when they are going places.
3) Get a local phone (blackberry)!
a. Text or WhatsApp people.
b. Check your phone and Facebook often to find invites.
4) Go to people’s birthday parties.
5) Post plans on the Facebook group but don’t become discouraged if people don’t respond. Post something else.
6) Call people’s rooms and cell phones to figure out what you are doing.
7) Get to know your roommates.
8) Become friends with the staff. They will help you plan things or go places with you if you want them too.
9) Don’t every allow yourself to eat alone unless you want to.
10) Finally, don’t be rigid with your plans. If you aren’t flexible then you will miss some great experiences and people.
These 10 strategies have helped me to become the best version of myself and maximize my experience here in Cape Town.