Written by Aliah Lloyd, (Grand Valley State University), Student Correspondent for CET Taiwan, Fall 2022
There is one thing I know for sure, it’s harder to do something than to not do it at all. I know some of us have days where we just want to stay in bed rather than taking a leap out of our comfort zone. I definitely have those days. If you met me in person, you would probably doubt me when I say I am an introvert, but I am. I am what I like to call an introverted extrovert. This means, I am content with staying in my own space unbothered than going out; however, if I am with the right group of people that I enjoy spending time with I will let out my energetic side that can be too much for people sometimes.
I am telling you this because I know it’s hard. It took me a bit to really feel comfortable even speaking in my class, let alone with strangers. After a few weeks, I was able to curate a few ways of comfortably finding multiple language partners, who are now my friends, who will support me in my journey of fluency! Hopefully one of the strategies I have developed here in Taiwan can help you in taking that first step out of your comfort zone in a new country.
Lunch before the zoo
CET Offered Resources:
I am not entirely sure if this is in every program, but for Taiwan we were able to sign up to participate in a language exchange organized by the CET staff. CET also gave us multiple links to other various resources such as university clubs and meet ‘n’ greet apps that hold many events much like what Facebook does. Now, CET offers many useful resources. My favorite, of course, is their language exchange, but I found even more language partners in other ways.
Sign Up for Events/Clubs:
The best way to get out of your comfort zone is to get involved in something you love. This can be sports, art, music, anything! Funny thing is, the only way I ended up going to a language exchange club was because a classmate of mine wanted to go but didn’t want to go alone so I agreed to accompany them. We ended up going there together but didn’t see each other the entire meeting. Thanks to them I was able to meet so many people struggling just as much as I was. We ended up playing games, exchanging languages, and sharing cultural differences and similarities. It was probably the most fun I have had at a club in a while, because no matter who you were, you ended up meeting at least one person similar to you. In my case, someone way more outgoing enough to talk to me first! XD
Most universities have a website for the clubs they offer and not just a club fair. I recommend checking out the website and then signing up for any that you would be even a little bit interested in, even if you aren’t entirely sure if you want to commit. The first week will come by fast and you won’t be the only student wanting to get into certain clubs. I say this because most of the clubs at NTU had over 300 applications after the club fair so almost no one was able to get into the clubs they wanted to. If you decide it’s not right for you after the first meeting, then just let the club know and they will open it up to anyone else on the waitlist.
Exploration at the club fair
Finally, Ask the People You Know:
Ask friends, family, classmates, and even teachers for recommendations on finding people interested in a language exchange. I was thankful enough to have an Uncle who had a close friend/coworker in Taiwan. They not only took the liberty of caring for me while in a new country, they are also helping me learn the language and culture in Taipei. They introduced me to other friends and family who wanted practice with English and now I feel I have a whole family here in Taiwan.
Now, I know most people coming to a new country might not have that kind of resource, but I also made three other friends who were looking for a language exchange at the airport upon arrival. This friend, who had been in Taiwan recently, agreed to help me improve my Mandarin skills. We ended up spending time together exchanging between Mandarin and English, laughing at our mistakes, cheering each other on for trying, and correcting the mistakes we made. It was an absolute blast! I made a lot of friends since coming here and I am grateful for each and every single one of them. Thanks to them, a language exchange ripple effect was created. Introductions between friends led to other friends which led to other friends and you can guess the rest.
I truly hope at least one of these tips can help you take the first step in finding your language partner, but it’s always up to you on whether or not you continue forward or stay where you are. Regardless, I encourage you to find a language partner and make your own spiral of connections that will lead you down the path of language fluency.