By Yizhou Zhao, Guest Contributor 

Two weeks ago, when I first came to the summer school, I hardly knew anyone. The first few days felt quite lonely with all the new people and environment. As an international student, I don’t know the pop culture about America and the jokes told by others. But now I have lots of friends from different countries, which makes this summer even more amazing. I saw many international students who were struggling with loneliness so I decided to offer some help.

The primary thing about fitting in is to know yourself fully. It is important to figure out whether you want to hang out with one close friend or a group of people. Think about the things you know well and the hobbies you like. It builds up confidence and helps you have a clear goal.

Every remarkable thing starts with small deeds. You don’t even have to introduce yourself, just say hello with a big sweet smile. There is no limit to the place where you can make friends. When you have the idea with someone in your class, when you make a team with someone playing tennis, when you play the same instrument with someone in the orchestra, when you sit next to someone at dinner, when you find someone who also likes watching movies, when you meet a friendly-looking guy on the street, when you laugh at a joke told by someone in the common room, you will feel a connection to that person who shares similarity with you. 

All in all, everyone wants to make friends, so that connection is mutual and a little push will make a great pair of friends. However, you can’t expect people to remember your name after only one mention. Keep reminding them who you are, which is especially important for international students who sometimes have a special name. That first friend you made certainly has friends (s)he can introduce you to. And that’s how you can be a part of a group. All it needs is some small deeds with an open and kind heart.

Like I said,  a little push can make a small similarity extraordinary. And that push is mostly conversation. There is definitely no need to say something that shows you are an intelligent and important person. The content really isn’t that crucial, the attention you are paying to others is. It’s ok to have different opinions or ask your friend to repeat the question. They only makes people feel that what they say matters and want to go on talking with you. Keep nodding or commenting if you must, just don’t fiddle with your phone or listen to music. Respect is basically that little push.

There are some empirical suggestions for you to consider. First, try not to make friends with people only from your country, and don’t speak another language when a foreign person is present. It is considerably easier to hang out with people from your country but diversity is what makes friendship colorful and unlimited. 

Second, don’t be frustrated if someone doesn’t react to your friendliness, just tell yourself (s)he is uncool and there is nothing wrong with me. 

Third, try not to change groups frequently since it’s hard to blend in another long-formed group. And that’s why it’s important to recognize yourself first in order to choose the right group. 

Last but not least, do respect your closest friend. Be kind and respectful even if the relationship is long and close.

Loneliness will destroy a lot of fun during the summer. Don’t make yourself isolated from the remarkable world outside. Put a big smile on your face, greet others, introduce yourself, and you will find your heart filled with warmth and happiness.