A Great and Unexpected Shortcut to Improving Your Social Skills and Getting a Social Life
or Sixty Days in China

Other articles from "Get a Social Life From Scratch" series.

Are you looking for a shortcut to profoundly improve your social skills, make a lot of new friends and get a social life in a really short period of time? You may not realize it but there is one! I've discovered it to be quite simple to take and, at the same time, one of the most powerful and effective methods you can choose from.

Improving communication skills and getting a social life may be regarded as a tiresome and time-consuming process. And, it usually is! Serious changes cannot happen overnight and you've got to repeat the same things several times before you get the results you are satisfied with. But, if there's a more straightforward way to improve interpersonal skills, overcome shyness and social anxiety, then why on earth not follow it?

The shortcut I'm talking about is actually no secret. A lot of people have already used it. But, how often do we miss obvious opportunities? It's strange; but, people prefer to choose more lingering and stressful ways to achieve their goals when the path, which will lead them to the solution quickly and with less trouble, is lying right in front of them.

So, what is this shortcut to improving your social skills, overcoming shyness and social anxiety? I say and strongly recommend you to do an internship in a foreign country.

The last two months I spent in Beijing, China, I took an internship in the field of translation there. This article is a summary of my China experience - from the social skills improvement perspective. It explains what challenges you may face if you decide to use this approach as well as the benefits you will gain from it.

Also, I provided a detailed description on how I managed to reach this goal, the mindset I had been using, motivation issues I stumbled upon, and, of course, I mention some people who inspired me and helped me to make my dream come true eventually.

My hope is that my experience will help you better understand what exact value you can get if you take a trip to a foreign country alone (particularly, to China, Beijing) in a sense of improving your communication skills and your social life overall.

This article may seem a little bit chaotic and inconsistent. But, it's intended to be like that, because this is the best way to express all the diversified feelings, which now fill my soul.

Hear The Call

It all starts with an emotion - doesn't matter if it’s a negative or positive one.

I can name more than 10 reasons why I went to China - rich, cultural background, low prices, different political system, rapidly-developing economy, etc. I can't say that those reasons are not true. Because they are! All of them are socially-conditioned reasons for my trip. I came up with them later, in order to have something to say when people would ask me “Why?”

But, in the beginning, it was the emotion. And, its name was BOREDOM. Deadly Boredom!

My day-to-day life became too comfortable and too predictable. No challenges, no sparks. And short, one-week vacation trips to nearby countries with my friends did not make me feel any better.

So, one day, I just heard a voice somewhere deep in my soul, calling me to explore farther lands and to go for it alone. First, it was some distant, unclear call; but, it grew louder with time. In the end, it became that idée fixe you can't resist. So, I couldn't help but surrender to its embracing power.

I am sure you are familiar with that feeling of total numbness. When you wake up in the morning being already sure that today will be like previous 1,000 days of your life. Nothing new to expect, nothing to hope for!

The best way to get out of this trap is to change your environment… change it completely! It means you have to change the people who surround you, your job, your residence (another city is fine, but traveling to another country is much better) and even the language you speak. Not for one week; but, for a month at least. The good thing is that taking internship in a foreign country fulfills all these conditions at once.

Take Internship. Don't Just Travel Like A Tourist

If you go to another country as a mere tourist, you are risking the chance of missing out on all those great opportunities to develop your social skills. Yes, you'll visit a lot of interesting spots - museums and temples - buy a lot of gifts and other useless stuff for your friends. You’ll also take many splendid pictures of the National Geographic kind. However, the reality is that you won't improve your communication skills much and you won't even come close to getting to know the country or its people.

If you go to a foreign country, stay in a hotel, eat at a fancy restaurant and do some sightseeing from time to time, you literally miss all the fun.

Internships allow you to get to know the country and the people from the inside out. You communicate with natives - not like a tourist interacts with souvenir sellers – rather, you are perceived as an equal member of their society. It's completely different as the later kind of communication is much deeper and more meaningful.

Building Strong Human Relationships

This approach allows you to build some truly strong human relationships. Not just with natives; but, with foreigners as well. I'm not saying if you don't take an internship, you won't make any friends in a foreign country. What I mean is that making friends is much easier when you are an intern. In fact, it's inevitable.

If you think of yourself as a shy, awkward, weird, unsociable person with poor communication skills – Damn! Believe me; you are going to discover a lot of unexpected amazing things about yourself!

The truth is that most folks who take an internship go to a foreign country alone… by themselves. They do not have friends by their side to make the transition easier. Interns are all in the same boat. Thus, everybody is friendlier and communication is established much easier.

In fact, you and other interns already have things in common – you all made the decision to come to another country. By default, you are already united. That's more than enough to become good pals. Furthermore, you encounter the same obstacles as you make your way through adaptation in a foreign country, which only strengthens your friendship.

By taking an internship, you put yourself in a situation where you cannot help but socialize… a lot. The best thing about this is that, despite how introverted you are, you don't make yourself socialize - you want to.

The funny fact is that I didn't even visit the Great Wall while staying in China. Why? Because, I literally had no time to go there – I was socializing… a lot! OK, maybe I'll make it next time. :-)

Hesitation Is Fine

The decision to visit another country for a time should never be made on the whim. After all, it’s not like what to make for dinner or if you should purchase a pair of new shoes. And, it’s quite natural and predictable to start second-guessing yourself once you have decided to visit another country as an intern. Don’t be surprised if you change your mind four or five times before you actually get to the foreign country. Did I do this? I sure did!

If you haven't traveled much before, this idea may look fantastic to you. You may not believe in it totally. However, don’t become discouraged.

Start the process by choosing a country you’d like to live in for a time. Then, locate a company that can help you with the internship placement and accommodation. Once you have learned how much money it will take to get there, begin saving!

My recommendation is to NOT tell other people about your plans as talk takes away the power from your actions. There's a great article on this topic by Amy Clover who describes this point of view – Talk is Cheap. (By the way: Amy, you are that girl who inspired me to take this trip in the end!)

What Could Hold You Back: The Many Challenges That Could Stop You From A Foreign Internship

I'm not sure if it's true for you; but, the fear of flying is another roadblock that could prevent you from taking internship in such a distant country as China. For me, it was one of the hardest obstacles to overcome because, as I stated here, I have never taken a plane in my life before I turned 26.

While the fear of flight is irrational for many, it’s pretty difficult to eradicate it entirely. I approached my fear in this manner: I accepted my goal to go to China as unavoidable. I had no choice but to take a plane to get there.

If you’re not a native English speaker, you may encounter the challenge of speaking it. Before going to China, I did not have much experience in speaking English and I had almost no experience in communicating with native English speakers face-to-face. However, everything turned out quite well. If you are doubtful about your English abilities, the best way is to go and check it out anyways. You’ll do just fine!

One last important step: You must get on the plane to go to your internship destination. It might seem easy to some. But, in the last hour before you leave your home, you may start to have crazy thoughts running through your head such as, “What in the hell am I doing here?” or “Perhaps it is best I stay home”. The moment you notice these thoughts floating around in your head, here’s what you need to do:

Take your luggage, make sure you have the money and your ID, head to the airport and get on that plane!

Why Should You Go To China

Every China travel guidebook as well as each tour agency booklet will provide you with an imposing list of reasons why China is worth visiting. Let me share with you my own, subjective perception of this country – why I consider it a good to place to go visit.

What is the key advantage of China? Keep in mind that it’s all about impression. China is a breath of fresh air. China is alive and, being here, you feel alive too! You may literally feel the pulse of the world beating in China. China is rapid and energizes you to keep up the pace. You'll definitely love it.

Now, I can only speak from the point of view of visiting Beijing, China. However, I am sure it applies to other China cities – Shanghai, Guangzhou and other state level cities.

I found Beijing to be very safe for foreigners. You might feel a little awkward the first couple of weeks but people here are very friendly and welcoming. In fact, over time, you will feel like you are home.

My story would not be complete if I did not say some words about the Chinese women. Chinese women are very cute and extremely beautiful. I couldn't help but fall in love with these lovely creatures. I want a Chinese wife! :-)

How You Can Get To China

Now, how can you take advantage of a China internship?

There’s a company in Beijing that specializes in providing this type of service. Its name is Get in2 China and all the necessary information is available on their website.

The guys from this company do an excellent job. When you apply for their internship program, they look for companies that agree to hire you as an intern. If you are satisfied with your internship placement, they start searching for accommodations for you. If you don't like the internship placement they offer, you may ask to find another one or simply ask for a refund.

They may also locate an internship placement in Shanghai, if you want to go visit that city.

Still, I highly recommend this company due to their very friendly support. You will never feel abandoned. They keep you involved through organizing various cultural events and parties. All that is required of you is to show up and enjoy. If you get sick, they help you find a doctor and buy some medicine.

The people from Get in2 China provide a true 24/7 support. If you've encountered an emergency, you can call them any time, day or night, and they will help you.

* * *

Are you feeling burnt out from your current job? Do you feel stuck in your life? Are you a little unsure about your future? Do you want to improve your social skills as quickly as possible? Then, it would be in your best interest to do an internship in China… right now.

My fellow blogger, Stefan Parmark used a similar approach. When he felt burnt out with his life, he went to Australia and spent two months there. It made him feel much better and helped him to discover his life’s purpose.

If you want to make a commitment in 2013, shoot for a China internship.

If you are looking for more information about Beijing and China, please visit China Adventurer Travel Blog. It provides the information, tips, advice on how to truly travel in China and experience the culture, people, food, and attractions.

You may also be interested in reading my guest post published at Chinadventurer.com - Six Impressions Of Beijing.

December 15th, 2012