Last Updated on September 14, 2023 by Grace McAnally
On Sunday January 26th, I boarded a flight by myself from Newark, New Jersey to Heathrow airport in London, England. I’ve always been comfortable doing things on my own (sitting in a coffee shop, going to the store), and I’ve even flown alone before. After a teary goodbye with my parents and sister, I made my way through security and settled into a spot at my gate. As I was waiting for my flight, I felt comfortable sitting by myself.
Before I left, my friends and family would ask, “Are you nervous?” I’d say, “Yeah, a little. I’m more excited!” But honestly, I was nervous to meet so many new people. Even though I felt comfortable alone at the moment, one of the biggest things I kept thinking about was making friends abroad. Will I get along with the people in my program? Will people want to travel with me? Will my friendships last after we have finished studying abroad?
By the time I arrived at my hotel in London it was 8:45 AM locally but 3:35 AM back home, and I only had about an hour of sleep. Sleep deprived or not, I was in London! I started to explore the city with two girls that I will be studying with in Seville. I was happily surprised that I was getting along with them really well. I actually felt comfortable walking around with two total strangers! After what felt like an endless morning, a midday nap, and some fish and chips, the three of us met up with about seven other girls from our program at the London Eye. This is where some of the nerves came back. What are they going to be like? Will they like me? Will I be happy?
Once again, as the ten of us were riding the London Eye, I was happily surprised. We were talking, playing music, and taking pictures together. At this point I started to think about the many similarities and differences among us. We all have different interests, majors, and home states. Even so, we are all similar because we had the strength to come and try something completely new on our own. We all had a thirst for adventure and personal growth. Although there were still some nerves, I was comforted by the ability to connect with new people.
In just two days, our group had already learned so much about each other. It started to feel like I had known these girls for years. I made genuine connections through music, social issues, clothes — anything really. It’s not hard to connect with people in this environment because people are inherently similar. When we started our trip, everyone was in the same situation. We arrived feeling vulnerable and a little scared, and we wanted to be accepted by our peers. We were all looking to make friends abroad, and that is exactly what we did. These first few days have taught me to not be afraid of branching out and meeting new people. You may be surprised by who you find.