Having spent two weeks inside by myself, to say that I was nervous about being around others again was an understatement. The night before I was finished with quarantine, I had countless questions running through my head. Had other people already solidified friendships while in quarantine? Should I have put more effort into reaching out to others in my program? What was I going to do on my first day out? Would I be able to make friends? A constant stream of questions was circulating through my head like goldfish in a tiny bowl. Instead of letting these anxious thoughts overwhelm me, I remembered the last words that my brother said to me when saying goodbye, “Have fun, kid. I’m proud of you.” No grandeur speech, just a simple but utterly important reminder of why I was doing this all in the first place. As I’m sure many others experienced over this past year, I felt like I forgot how to make friends and socialize because of the isolation that came with the pandemic. That’s why I decided to study abroad for the academic year; I wanted to not only push myself out of my comfort zone but also remind myself that I was capable of cultivating friendships.
“Have fun.” Remembering these two simple words helped push me to take the first step, and the next thing I know I messaged someone who was on the same flight as me, asking if they would like to go to Daiso (basically a nicer Dollar Store) and explore for our first day out of quarantine. Within 15 minutes, we had complied a small group who would get together in the morning to head to Gangnam to explore COEX Mall. The relief that I felt was indescribable. I had plans for my first day of freedom! I was reminded of how important first steps are. So many others are in the same boat as me and nervous about being in a new country for the first time. If I had let my anxious, indecisive thoughts take over, I would have missed out on the opportunity to start down this road of cultivation. By instead making the conscious decision to take the first step and reach out to others, I was able to have the greatest first day out of quarantine. This is a lesson that I plan to actively remind myself of throughout the rest of my time abroad!
Brief description of my first day exploring:
I traveled with seven other students to Gangnam, about an hour away from the dorms by subway (something I had never experienced before) and bus! We spent all day exploring COEX Mall because of how huge it is. One of my favorite moments was going to Starfield Library, which is located inside the mall. I had never seen a library like this before, with books being in such high places, it was amazing! After a long day exploring, we started the trek back to the dorms, and as the rookies that we were, we ended up heading back right at rush hour, and oh boy, the subway at rush hour is an experience in and of itself. All in all, it was such a fun day that ended up leading to lasting friendships!