How To Make Friends In Small American High Schools

When you’re an exchange student at the beginning of your exchange experience, making friends seems like a difficult challenge to overcome – especially if you end up in a small country school in the US! You may think that your peers in high school will irremediably judge you and criticize every single move you make, but you couldn’t be more wrong!

Though it’s normal if you haven’t made any friends by the end of the first week, I can promise that if you are willing to understand their point of view and you’re keen to learn their culture, by the end of the year you will know almost everyone at your small American high school.

  1. Be kind and educated.

It doesn’t matter where you’re going, I can guarantee that good manners are welcome everywhere; especially if you want to make an excellent first impression. Nothing will go wrong if you behave and politely answer any questions they ask of you.

  1. Don’t turn down an invitation.

It’s very important for exchange students not to enclose themselves in a shell. The best way to make new friends is to meet as many people as possible, so try to accept any invites you receive. It doesn’t really matter if you like or dislike the person who invited you; it’s worth the opportunity for you to encounter many more people later at the event (whether it’s a quick stop at a fast food restaurant, a shopping trip or a sports game at school).


  1. Get involved with clubs and sports.

You have probably read this like a million times, but you have no idea how much difference joining a club or a sport team can have on your exchange experience. Not only you have the opportunity to meet more people, but you’re also keeping yourself busy during the week, which decreases the likelihood of getting sad thoughts or homesickness. Take challenges, try your best, meet new peers and cheer yourself up! In America, sports and clubs are a big thing, so almost every kid in high school is involved in one. Don’t be the exception.

  1. Text them until they can’t ignore you anymore.

One of the best pieces of advice that I can give to a young exchange student like yourself is to keep in contact with any people you have met right at the beginning of your exchange experience, until they start to consider you as more than “that exchange student.” Sometimes it’s okay to look desperate and wear people out! Also keep in mind that local people already have their own lives, so they won’t pay attention to you until you reach out to them. Your American schoolmates are unlikely to realize by themselves that you don’t have any friends yet.

  1. Remember you are NOT at home.

Last but not least, please understand that you are about to experience a new and different culture. There will be major differences between the American high school experience compared to your own high school experience at home. Exchange students must always go abroad with the aim of learning and embracing new traditions; keeping in mind that, most of the time, it’s our duty to adapt to the new environment. You will hear people say things that you won’t like and you will see your peers do things that you will find strange, but don’t let these incidents distract you from the fact that you are in America to learn THEIR way of living.

Be aware that it’s okay to misjudge people. You don’t have to hang out with the same group of people you met on the first day of school for the duration of your exchange experience. It doesn’t matter where you’re going to sit at lunch during your first week – you can always move!

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Carolina Guerra

Carolina is an Italian student about to graduate from high school in Milan, her hometown. She was an exchange student in the US and loves to travel all around the world, sharing most of her journeys on Instagram. You can always catch her singing, dancing, writing or eating. She also has a passion for cinema and dogs.


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