Life Abroad Panels: Social Interactions

In April of 2023, The Champlain Abroad office hosted the Life Abroad Panels with the aim of providing valuable insights and support to students preparing for or interested in studying abroad. These panels cover several different topics such as Wellness, Identity (with WGC), Food Issues, Academic Issues, Social Interaction, Finances, and Homesickness. These panels will serve as a way to share experiences, tips, and guidance from both staff members and former students who studied and lived in different countries. We recognize that these are not the only concerns students may have when it comes to studying abroad, therefore we urge students to fill out the Life Abroad Questionnaire that is provided to them on TerraDotta after they are accepted into our programs. Here, students will be able to list their concerns and they are encouraged to reach out to our office to discuss them further. Our study abroad coordinators are always willing to meet with students to answer questions and address concerns. The office also hosts various events and activities that can help students ease the transition of going abroad. To stay updated on the events and/or to book an appointment with our coordinators, check out our Events page. Ultimately, the life abroad panels served as a useful tool to empower and prepare students for their international experiences and ensure a successful and enriching time abroad. Here is the recording of the panel discussing how to deal with the expectations around social interactions while being abroad (closed-captioning available).

Below you can find a brief outline of the panel which was held on Zoom.

I. Introductions

  • Elin Melchior, Study Abroad Coordinator. Studied abroad at the University of Warwick.
  • Fiona Murphy, a 3rd-year Filmmaking major. Studied abroad in Montreal and Dublin.
  • Abbey Berger-Knorr, 3rd-year Communication major. Studying abroad at AUT in New Zealand.
  • Ally Clisby, 3rd-year Applied Math major. Studying abroad in Dublin, Ireland.

II. Before Going Abroad

  • Elin Melchior asks, “What specifically worried you about this concept of social interactions before you went abroad?”.
  • Fiona was worried about finding communication avenues with people who weren’t also Champlain people.
  • Abbey was worried about FOMO. Ally worried about not knowing the people within the Champlain group.

III. Did these worries resolve themselves once on the ground?

  • Elin asks, “Did this turn out to be an issue for you and something you needed to work on, or did you find that it just sort of took care of itself?”.
  • Abbey overcame her worries by staying in touch with people and looking for opportunities that she can take part in during her downtime after her classes end.
  • Ally pushed themselves to go out with people and go to events hosted by the school.
  • Fiona made connections with locals and older people that she can connect with.
  • Elin shares her experience with making friends with locals in Japan who are several generations older than her.


  • Elin goes back to what Abbey mentioned being her biggest worry and introduces the topic. She then asks if this has been an issue for Ally or Fiona.
  • Ally mentions their experience with having friends who have also been abroad and how they have not seen each other for 17 months. Ally keeps in touch with them consistently but thinks that it is important not to keep in touch too much because this can heighten FOMO.
  • Fiona mentions that she has a twin and still feels connected to the Champlain community in Burlington because she and her twin are part of the same activities.

V. Social Expectations

  • Elin brings up the drinking culture abroad compared to the culture in the US.
  • Drinking is a social thing in Dublin and being a non-drinker is not an issue.
  • There is no pressure to drink and the drinking age in Dublin is 18 so it is not a big issue for the panelists that are currently in Dublin.
  • For Abbey, who is in Auckland, it is also not an issue there. The campus is not a dry campus but they also take drinking as more of a social thing.
  • Abbey explains that since Auckland is a bigger city it has a bigger club and bar scene which happens more in the city and not so much near the res halls.
  • The res halls do have a rule around noise, they have to be quiet by 10 pm. People are respectful of this rule.

VI. Clubs or local groups

  • Fiona found local groups through classes outside the Champlain classroom and through her work on documentaries.
  • Abbey has not really joined any groups but has been able to meet people through RA-hosted events within the res halls.
  • Abbey became close with her roommates which helped them have a group and they love to plan trips together.
  • Ally has not really joined any clubs but Ally found a small community through a film store that has a small following.
  • Ally was able to find this community by observing stickers in people’s belongings and going up and talking to them.

VII. Social Expectations Part 2

  • Elin asks, “How about social expectations in these kinds of events you go to classes, your internship, are there things that stand out as different to you in how you are expected to interact with other people?”
  • Abbey mentions New Zealand is “hyper-American”.
  • Fiona mentioned that in Dublin everything is more relaxed and laid back, Fiona goes on to give examples.
  • Elin then expands on the topic, the expectation is that you’re going to go slower and take some time to socialize. “You can’t just jump right into your meeting, or you don’t just arrive and start to work. You say hi to everybody, and you talk more. I feel that’s true for a lot of cultures.”
  • Ally agrees and gives an example of this.
  • Fiona also talks about her internship experience.
  • Abbey adds, “Pretty much the same for New Zealand, too. It’s just super laid back. Everybody is just like very chill like that’s the Kiwi lifestyle.”

VIII. Advice

  • Go to events planned by the staff.
  • Reach out to your roommates.
  • Keep an open mind.
  • Invite people to do things with you.
  • Say yes to people’s invitations.

Links to Other Life Abroad Panels

More General Advice
Prepare to Go Abroad by Learning a Little of the Local Language
Montréal Culture: Books, Movies, and More!
Irish Culture: Books, Movies, and More!