Studying abroad has a certain feeling of starting over again, just like freshman year of college. Most people are coming in knowing absolutely no one. It’s freeing and yet terrifying. But there’s a big difference in studying abroad; you’re all being thrown into a new culture for a short period of time — three months for me to be exact. Even though we all came from different parts of the USA, we all quickly made friends and bonded with one another. We started meeting fellow American students, Austrians who live here, and others who were merely traveling.
That’s the thing about traveling; you tend to meet other people who are doing the same exact thing and after spending time with them and building a relationship, it’s time to part ways. We tend to only be able to see them for a season of life before we each must move on to the next thing.
My path just so happened to cross with a guy who was visiting one of my AIFS friends here in Salzburg. He was here for the week but we didn’t meet until halfway through. After hitting it off, we both realized we had a friendship here in front of us that had suddenly appeared. After several coffees, meals, and adventures, in just a few days we already knew one another quite well. But then, just like all travelers, the time for departure had come and it was time to say goodbye. I’m not going to lie — it was hard. Having met such a wonderful guy and having connected in such a short amount of time is not something that you find often.
Yet what’s amazing about all of this — the traveling, the friends you meet, the relationships you establish, and the people you get to know — is that it means to give you a reason to come back or explore new places. A reason besides seeing the sights or experiencing your favorite coffee shop again. All good things, but building relationships with those outside of your small town gives you the opportunity to see the world. It gives you the opportunity to experience new things and hear new points of view on life.
The places and people you meet when spending a semester abroad are incredible. It can happen when you’re attending a church you’ve found, chatting with fellow students studying abroad, meeting a stranger that your friend introduced you to, or just sitting at a pub or restaurant. The socialization and community that builds from everyday encounters never ceases to amaze me, especially when friends and loved ones that you never would have dreamed of meeting are the surprise blessing of an outcome.