Author: Allie Rodriguez, ITAN Admissions Advisor and Alumna
Before taking my TEFL course in Leon (They are now located at the beach of Leon/Las Penitas.) I worried about making friends. That same nervousness we all get before the first day of school when we were young or even before moving to a new city when we grew up, seemed ever present those weeks prior to my TEFL course. “What if I don’t connect with anyone? What if people won’t want to travel Nicaragua or hike with me? What if I eat alone the whole time I’m there? What if…” Sometimes it’s hard to silence those inner worries.
Rest assured, I did make friends and travel, eat and hike with others both during and after my 4 week TEFL course. I felt quite silly after the fact because all those worries faded within days of being in Nicaragua. It wasn’t until I became the Admissions Advisor for International TEFL Academy Nicaragua and spoke with prospective TEFL Students everyday that I realized I wasn’t the only one with those same concerns before my course. I found that if you follow these steps you will be able to make friends while abroad and gain a little confidence in your own social skills!
1. Get to know your TEFL community!
The first thing to ease some of my worries was recognizing the security of taking the course with thirteen other individuals doing the exact same thing as me – moving away from home and immersing yourself in an unknown culture all on your own! The strong sense of community amongst the ITA Nicaragua TEFL students, professors, alumni and locals is what makes moving away from home alone feel less scary and insecure. Yes, some of your classmates may be better traveled or may have visited Nicaragua before, but everyone is taking the TEFL course for the first time. Having that in common really bonds everyone in the course and sets you up for a great friendship in the future. You can even ask your advisor to add you to ITA’s Nicaragua Alumni group, and start meeting people before you ever leave home.
2. Socialize with fellow travelers!
In Nicaragua there are plenty of tourists visiting the volcanoes, beaches and cities – some stay for a week, some stay for months – but most that I have met are kind, often funny, and always up for hanging out with new people. If you and your TEFL friends go out, odds are you will meet a variety of backpackers, sightseers, expats, etc. from all over the world, and I encourage you to talk with them! Whether a great friendship comes of the conversation or not, it’s always nice to interact with new people and hear their story.
3. Interact with locals.
People from the area in which you are teaching are always going to be to most knowledgeable about that place. If there is a language barrier try setting up a language exchange! This way you can practice speaking the native language of your students and can provide English lessons to someone that may not have access to them elsewhere.. it’s a win win! Extra bonus – the Nicaraguans are famous for being the most friendly and kind people in the region.
4. Sign up for activities!
Whether you will be taking Spanish lessons, trying acro yoga, taking a surf lesson, or hiking a volcano under a full moon; participating in new and different activities will help you meet new people, and it often bonds you right away because you already have at least one thing in common!
5. Take some time for yourself.
Now, I understand this point may seem a little counterproductive, but it is important to make sure you are taking that alone time you need and not burning yourself out on so many social events. Get a room for yourself out of town for a weekend, take the bus to a new place and explore alone for an afternoon, or even fly to a new city or country for a quick trip! Being in a new country, immersing yourself in a new culture and interacting with all new people can be draining! It’s important to take some time for yourself to re-energize and open yourself up to new experiences with others.
If you put a little effort in and follow all these steps, you’ll be making friends while you’re abroad in no time. Now, what are you waiting for?
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Hi, my name is Allie and I am the Admissions Advisor at International TEFL Academy Nicaragua. I grew up in a suburb just south of Denver, Colorado. I graduated with a BA in Vocal Performance with a concentration in Jazz from Columbia College Chicago in 2015. During the fall semester of my junior year I was fortunate enough to study abroad in Bath, UK, which is where my love for international travel all began. After that, I went on to work as a student advisor for my school’s Study Abroad Department. I love talking with people about travel, international studies, and immersing oneself in a new culture – not only because it’s something that changed my life but also because I believe it is a crucial piece in making a well-rounded individual.
I wanted to continue traveling and learning about new cultures and when I was doing my research I found out about TEFL, which led me to International TEFL Academy in Nicaragua. I took the 4 week TEFL Certification Course in February 2017 and stayed in León after that to volunteer with children in an orphanage. After my time spent there I came back to the States and now live and work in Chicago. I look forward to hearing from you all and hopefully helping you reach your dreams and goals of living abroad!