Prior to studying abroad, I had little idea of what this time would hold. I had hopes for making good memories and meaningful connections, but my expectations were minimal, as to not lead myself too astray from reality. With only three-week sessions and the inevitable routine of students coming and going, I assumed there would be little space for building friendships, let alone community. Now, as session one has come to an end, I am incredibly happy and grateful to say that my original expectations proved false.
On my arrival day, I was surprised to find out that I was not only living in a triple (a room with two others), but I was living with nine other students in a flat. This news was startling, as I anticipated that sharing a space with so many people might be overwhelming. Not to mention, there were two restrooms for 10 people; that alone made me nervous, but, luckily, a wealth of my anxieties subsided as soon as I met some of my roommates, or soon-to-be friends.
I wanted to enter every encounter with open arms in spite of my initial worries, and I was delighted to receive open arms in return. Each of my roommates were unique, and thinking about why we all got paired to room together, I still don’t know. Some of us didn’t have anything in common from backgrounds to personality traits, or even interests, but our one commonality is that we enjoyed each other’s company.
Not only was I blessed to have roommates that became my friends, but I also became close to several of my classmates. On the first day of class, my professor encouraged us all to have the courage to be vulnerable, and for many of us, being authentically ourselves is vulnerable. However hard it might be to enter a new and scary experience like a study abroad with little to no support system or guarantee of friends, being authentically yourself is a good step forward in the direction of finding people who like you for you. For me, those people were all taking my class. Together, we had fun inside of the classrooms eating pastries and having conversations about social change and active citizenship and outside of the classroom, going to cocktail cafes or swimming at the harbor.
As the first session came to an end, it was time to say goodbye to all the new friends I had come to make. Hugs and goodbyes were exchanged, and tears were shed as we all said goodbye to each other. It was hard to believe that we had only known each other for three weeks, yet our bonds had grown so much. Certainly, this was something special, and it felt eerily similar to how leaving summer camp felt as a kid.
In a short span of three weeks, I made memories that will last a lifetime from having “family dinners” or craft nights to watching bad documentaries or spending so much on street food. To my roommates, my friends, thank you for making me coffee in the morning and checking on me when my homesickness became too big or the sometimes daunting experience of being in a new country made me feel small. Thank you for the laughs that made us cry and the many adventures we shared. I am so glad to have met you.
Reflecting on the friendships I made in the first session, I am excited to see what connections are yet to be made in my second session abroad. I am hopeful that the memories and friendships to come will be just as worth writing about. One thing that these friendships have taught me is that being courageous and vulnerable is an incredible way to find a new friend. To anyone that may be studying abroad or entering a space where they want to make a friend, I encourage you to be courageous and vulnerable, too. Live authentically as yourself, and I suspect that friends will find you, just as they did me.