Some would simply call it going the extra mile; sparking a conversation to supplement your daily "Salut! Ça va?" with the stranger you met last week in your apartment block; or going into your local café just to introduce yourself to the people that may be serving you food for the next year. Others may call it courage; approaching the slightly out your league but still approachable European girl or guy at a welcome event, albeit with the welcome assistance of half a bottle of €3,50 red wine. The likelihood is that this particular European country breeds infinitely better looking people in general than our own and that they’ll be only too impressed by your wilful approach.
Either way, sooner or later many of these par hazard meetings will come to benefit you, and no doubt not only enhance, but make your year abroad.
Knowing nobody in a place besides a few acquaintances from your university can be the incentive required to really branch out, do new things and meet new people. This is certainly not something synonymous with university life in the UK. Too often, the unkempt British student, in his or her formerly new tracksuit bottoms, spends too much time eating ready meals on the run-down sofa, and not enough time getting out, taking advantage of life without responsibility or concern…beyond that of last night’s drunken embarrassment, the consequent lingering hangover and the burden of unfinished work.
I’d like to say that I hadn’t just described myself for the previous two years, but a year or any period abroad is without question, an opportunity to make amends.
Arriving in the new city is undeniably daunting. However, having spent just over 6 months in Bordeaux, it is clear to me that ‘social networking’, out in the city, rather than hidden away behind the Facebook newsfeed, is the key to metamorphosing from lost tourist, to accomplished and interesting foreigner. Who needs updating on information that was totally irrelevant to you even back home anyway?
This is not to say that internet social networking should be abandoned. On the contrary, being able to stay in contact with people you have finally gone the extra mile to meet is arguably the key to forging and maintaining a new network through which you could receive to events, parties and gatherings, which you otherwise would have remained oblivious too. You never know – this could be the party where you meet the person from your university course who will send you all the notes you need for your whole year, the boy or girl of your dreams, your best friend for the year, or even the person that knows the right people to get you on the football team.
Whatever it may be that you are looking for, it is a matter of opening as many doors for yourself as possible, and as the title says, ‘making your own luck’. In spite of that, it isn’t just about being invited to one party. It needs to be more than just a one-off moment of boldness for the not-so revolutionary hypothesis to apply.
The more positive, the more social, and frankly the more believable you are as a positive, outgoing, interesting foreigner, the more likely you are to receive a knock on your door at a later date, or a free drink and a sandwich now and again when running low on euros. This is all very achievable, and can be done all in the knowledge that you yourself are responsible for this “luck” that seems to continually be coming your way.
At the risk of sounding slightly apocalyptic, it should be a way of life, that should probably carry through to benefit you even once all that remains of the year abroad is just a good memory, and a few albums on Facebook to browse through while eating your ready meal, in your ever-ageing tracksuit bottoms, having what will hopefully be, this time, a well-deserved sit down.