Some of my favorite takeaways from study abroad were the friends that I got to keep. This experience – living in another country, traveling all the time, learning new cultures – is temporary, but the friendships made are not.
My first study abroad experience was a semester in Viña del Mar, Chile. Not only did I bring home a [short-term] boyfriend from this trip (not as fun as it sounds), but I also brought home quite a few long-term friends. A few of those friends are the awesome people I met from the University of Arizona. The year following my incredible experience in Chile, I packed my bags and flew to Tucson to see them before they graduated.
The great thing about study abroad friends is that they are just like you. They love to travel and explore and try new things. So when I went to Tucson, my friends were so excited to show me around and help me explore this brand new city. We saw some nightlife, toured their campus, and even went on a hike. For an Iowa girl, this may as well have been another country. How grateful I am to have met these wonderful people. I now have places to stay all over the country thanks to the friends I have from my first trip with AIFS.
Not only do I have connections across the U.S., I also made some really neat international friends! One of those friends is from Germany, and she allowed me to stay with her when I visited her hometown this past January. Having a local to show you around a new city is really an invaluable asset. Having a local to pick you up from the train station and drive you for a day trip to Amsterdam is a true friend. I’m so happy to know Maren, and look forward to repaying her with U.S. tours and rides some day.
On my last trip with AIFS, I took a J-term to Salamanca, Spain. The people I met there were like my long lost sisters. We clicked on so many levels – it was like we had known each other for years. Although we were only together for a little over two weeks, it felt like an entire semester. We experienced so much – side trips to Sevilla and Barcelona, full days of class, practicing our terrible Spanish accents, etc.
On our trip to Barcelona was when we realized how sad it was that we had met, just to say goodbye so soon. Tragic really. But we keep in contact of course, with our group chat (La Equipa) and our plans of reuniting ASAP. These crazy girls are still my phone screen saver. It’s insane to think how close you can become with people in such a short time, and how much travel really brings people together.
Overall, study abroad is often seen as a time to find yourself. While I can obviously see the value in that, it is not valuable to find yourself at the expense of losing possible relationships. These are some of the most important people in my life today, and I am so lucky to have met them and bonded with them abroad. So I guess all what we’re wondering now is… does AIFS offer reunion scholarships?