Before I left to study abroad, I would sit for hours upon hours on my phone and laptop scouring the internet. I would read articles over all aspects of the journey. One thing that was repeated over and over again was that you will make friendships that will last forever. I thought this was the cheesiest thing and no one ever explained why they will last so long! You meet these people, talk with them for a few months and then go back home. Boy, was I wrong! I can truly say that the friendships I have made abroad will last a lifetime. Here’s why:
1. We are all going through the same emotional journey.
Leaving your family and friends is hard, especially when they are on different time zones. Other study abroad students understand this. They get that you miss people from home very much and would do anything to see them, but at the same time, they understand that you are having the time of your life while in a foreign country. Your new friends become your family. They are the ones that you see you at your highest and lowest moments. They felt the same way on the first day. They also sat and cried when they had no idea what was happening. They also question if they are doing the right thing. They are now the ones who are right next to you when you do something crazy or say something that makes no sense. As much as you love your friends at home, they may not completely understand this unless they have been on this journey themselves.
2. We experience so much together.
From spontaneous trips to MAX (the best Swedish fast food) to weekend trips around Europe and random movie nights because you want a break from going out. You learn how they travel and whether they are a morning person or stay in bed until 3 p.m. You see the world together. They become your personal photographer and help you pose just right for the perfect Instagram shot. They enjoy nights out with you and the locals. These are a few of the once in a lifetime experiences that you have with you new found friends.
3. We are busting stereotypes together.
As much as I hate to say it, there are stereotypes. With the media selecting only certain stories and movies, we create views and beliefs in our heads. As an American, I hear things like “Oh, it’s not like that in the movies” or “does everyone really live in big houses with seventeen cars?” Sometimes you just laugh and say no, but it becomes meaningful when you sit with them and describe and show what your home is really like and in return, they will do the same. I myself have learned about many different cultures and destroyed stereotypes created in my head. The simple fact that we are able to study together and enjoy each other’s culture allows us to take a new view back to our country. It connects us for a lifetime, because whenever we see or meet someone from their country, we will think of them, and hopefully send them a message telling them how much we miss them.
4. We have common career goals.
Back home, I would tell someone that it is my dream to live and work in a developing country, and they would look at me like I had five heads. While studying abroad, I will tell someone this and they tell me they want to do the same, or something similar. They understand feeling part of a globalized world and wanting to have a positive impact throughout the whole world. We bond over how similar our career ambitions are. A friend looked at me the other day and said “It would be so cool if we ended up working somewhere near each other. We came to Sweden from two different parts of the world, met each other, and are going back to our home countries. In two or three years we could end up working in another country together.” Knowing that we have similar future plans, we bond and understand what each other goes through. We will be able to follow their careers on social media and celebrate with them.
5. We make connections all over the world and want to stay in touch.
Clearly, we love to travel and experience the world. Knowing that these friends we make are going home to completely different parts of the world is sad, but it is also exciting. With technology, we are able to stay connected to each other, and it encourages our travel bug to get out and see more of the world. Knowing that we only have a limited time together, we make more memories faster. It feels like I arrived in Sweden two weeks ago, when really it’s been almost three months. Soon, we are going to return to our respective homes and we keep reminding ourselves that this is not goodbye, it’s a see you later. Staying connected will only strengthen our friendship, and it will make the reunion a worldly celebration.
I thought I already had all of my lifetime friends back home. I am very glad that I put myself out there and have made friends from every corner of the world. As cheesy as it sounds, these people that I have met in the last three months will forever remain close to my heart. I cannot thank them enough for the memories that we have created, and I cannot wait to see what they do in the world.
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