Friendships may greatly enhance the quality and richness of an off-campus studies experience. Students studying away for a semester or year will usually have an opportunity to meet local students from the host country as well as a diverse range of US students studying on the program with them who may be from different regions of the US and/or from universities very different from Whitman.
- Becoming friends with local people allows students to become far more immersed in a new country and culture, and gives them the chance to more fully appreciate and understand its peoples and values.
- Making friends abroad may not be easy. Depending on where a student is studying, they may find the locals more reserved and formal in their relationships.
- In some other countries it is often more common for people to have a few close, lifelong friends than an array of acquaintances, as is often the case in the U.S.
- The fact that most students stay abroad for a relatively short period, and tend to spend most of their free time traveling, is not helpful for developing long-term relationships.
- One of the best ways to make friends abroad is to seek out people with a common interest whether it is a language exchange partner, local swim team, choral group, theatrical group or volunteering in the community.
- When living abroad students may have to overcome prejudices and stereotypes about people from the US. Try not to be defensive about criticism of the U.S. and try not to take it personally. Even though people may be very critical of the U.S. as a nation, they can still be appreciative of Americans as individuals.
- Many students find that the friends they make abroad can last a lifetime.
Sexual mores vary a great deal from country to country and this can be tricky terrain for students to navigate.
Here are some examples of how cultures can differ:
- In more conservative societies, just going on a date alone with someone of the opposite sex may be understood as an intention to marry and sexual involvement may be taboo prior to marriage. Students should be sure to understand the implications of their actions in the host culture before becoming involved with someone.
- In some many societies, agreeing to go home with someone is assumed to be a tacit form of consent for sexual relations.
- Attitudes towards homosexuality vary a great deal from culture to culture: some countries may be much more accepting of homosexual relationships while others may be much more homophobic than the U.S.
- Students with any questions about the social norms related to dating and sexual orientation in the country they are going to should contact the Off-Campus Studies Office, or the program they are attending.