We have lots of idioms (expressions) in English, and one of them is to "come out of your shell" like a turtle might do once it feels safe and confident in its new environment. When you move to a new country, some people have no problem doing this; being social and getting involved in the community comes naturally to some.
However, for the vast majority of people, being in a new country where you don't speak English fluently makes you feel uneasy and insecure. You just want to stay in the safety of your shell (your homestay, apartment, or wherever you are staying).
I know from personal experience that this might feel like an easy way around the problem, but it just adds to your feelings of loneliness. Your shell becomes your prison, and it no longer feels comfortable anymore. When this happens, it's time to poke your head out and risk feeling scared or nervous.
Here are a few steps to get you out of your shell:
1. Go to the local library.
In America, many cities have libraries, and they are a free service. In Houston, all you need is proof of your address, and you can get a card. Libraries often offer free classes, including art, cooking, and other classes. I know that the two libraries in my area do (Evelyn Meador and the Freeman library). Challenge yourself to go to the library, and attend one class - even if it is only for 30 minutes! You will feel a big sense of accomplishment!
2. Attend an ESL Meetup.
The website www.meetup.com offers many ESL conversation groups in Houston and around the world. Yes, you will feel nervous the first time you go. However, the nervousness is much better than the feelings of isolation. Trust me! Groups are usually well-attended so you are bound to meet someone that you can connect with.
3. Go to a coffee shop, and enjoy a cup of coffee.
Just be a part of the energy and atmosphere around you. You don't have to do or say anything - except for ordering coffee! I guarantee that you will feel energized not just from the coffee but from the buzz of people all around you. It's hard to feel lonely at a coffee shop! We are all at different points on our language and life journey. I challenge you to take a small step today to step out of your shell and become a part of the life around you.