Going across the world alone can be scary to think about. When I was younger, I had always pictured studying abroad with a friend and not alone, but all of the sudden it was January and I was packing my bags and saying goodbye to all of my friends and family. As my parents were driving me to the airport, the thought kept running through my head: “What if I don’t make any friends abroad?”
When my mom and I were checking my bags at the airport, a lady tapped me on shoulder and asked if I was going to Barcelona. She was with a girl that was my age that looked just as nervous and excited as I was. Apparently she noticed the green AIFS tag on my suitcase that matched her daughters. She introduced us to each other, then we both said our goodbyes and started walking together through the airport.
Once we got to our gate we noticed that there was another small group of people that looked our age. We sat down next to them and introduced ourselves and it turns out they were in our program too. All of us talked about how we didn’t know what to expect in Spain and how it still hadn’t set in yet that we were going to be living in Barcelona for four months.
After we arrived in London for our stopover, the chaos set in. There were so many people in our program staying at our hotel. I have never been introduced to so many people at once. We were all tired from the overnight flight, but we got a group of people together to go get lunch. There were about 12 people with us, and to be honest I probably only knew two of their names. This is when I realized, everybody else is in the same boat as me.
Before I left I thought that I was going to be alone a lot. Now looking back, I haven’t really been alone since I arrived at the airport.
Everyone studying abroad is just like you. They want to make friends and get to know people from all over, too.
Being in a new country makes you vulnerable and everyone is looking for someone to talk about it with. I can’t even count on one hand how many times I have made eye contact with a stranger and just started chatting with them.
I can now say that I have friends from all over the United States, but I didn’t expect to have friends from all over the world. As my friends and I have traveled throughout Europe, we have met amazing people from so many different countries. I have learned more about the world by traveling and meeting people than I ever could be taught in school.
The friendships I have made here are different from any friendships I’ve had before. I have known these people for four short months, but I have felt like I have known them my whole life. That’s what traveling will do. You get to know people so much faster when you are traveling with them.
The friends you make abroad will be your friends for the rest of your life. There are so many times I have gotten the chills because I am so happy about where I am and the people that are there with me. So, go abroad and see the world, but also get ready to meet the best people in the world.
This post was contributed by Lea Swatosch, who is studying abroad with AIFS in Barcelona, Spain.