Here's a picture of me at the D-Day beaches in Normandy!
As I approach the end of my study abroad experience (with about 20 days left) I can't help but be a little nostalgic remembering how I first walked around not knowing where anything was sweating in the summer heat of southern France to now watching the leaves fall and the seasons change. There are a lot of people I have met through this experience that have shared the ups and downs of life abroad with me that I will be close to for a long time, but I remember on my flight over I kept thinking and stressing about how I was going to make friends in a foreign country.
Luckily for me my program had a pre-session which consisted of two weeks of intense language immersion while all 35 of the students in my program were staying in the same hotel. This created an immediate group of people for me to call my new friends but alas, they were learning French too and I was hoping to meet some native speakers to really improve my language abilities.
So when classes started up at my university, I tried chatting with people in class which is actually a little difficult when you are like me and don't know a lot of as the French would say "la langue courante" (or what people actually say in day to day life) instead of my practiced phrases which came out of textbooks...so meeting French people in that situation turned out to be a little stressful.
The thing that really helped me, as it does for any college student, is to join something. With common interests, the dialogue is already started making the transition a little more seamless. I joined a conversation group on Wednesday nights which is an exchange of English and French. So while I speak French someone else speaks English...which ends up working out quite nicely as both of us would stumble our way through phrases and unfamiliar pronunciations.
I think the main thing is that you can't be afraid like I was in my first week of classes - students throughout the world (wherever you might happen to study) are just as interested in you as you are in them. It is that sort of innate curiosity about the way other cultures live that drives young people to study elsewhere. So don't feel pressured to fit in perfectly or speak the language exactly like a native...because odds are you won't...and that is just fine because the best learning opportunities come from understanding those differences that make us special. So throw yourself out there because you've got nothing to lose!