Making Friends in Unusual Places
We all know it is good to be social and make friends, but how often are we truly open to it? For myself, my friend group over the past four years has been relatively stable. Sticking to your group works fine until you move across the world during Study Abroad! Separating yourself from your friends can be scary unless you fully embrace it and see the new opportunity to diversify your circle.
I found studying abroad in Ireland to be the perfect opportunity to push myself socially and meet new people. I did not expect to make so many connections and have the experiences that came with them. My goals for my four months in Ireland were to make as many friends as possible and assimilate myself into my new environment. Once I set this intention, it was surprisingly easy to make friends! I made friends through the expected places like classes, clubs, and roommates. But some of my most memorable experiences came from making friends in unique situations.
I became close with two of my flatmates as we were all from the U.S. and felt a sense of comfort and home around each other. Part of our friendship was getting out and exploring our new home and Europe! In early September, we traveled to Greece, intending to experience the country as we went, not knowing meeting a group of friends while there would lead to an unforgettable future trip. The Airbnb we stayed in was a big two-level house. We were at the bottom, and another group was at the top. Through the luck of coming/going at the same time, we got to meet the group and quickly became friends. Although their trip was ending while we were beginning, we heard about their experience and tips for places to go and restaurants to experience. After Greece, I kept in contact with one of the guys.
When our next trip to Europe fell through, I jokingly texted my friend, saying I was disappointed not to be traveling during my free weekend. To make a long story short, a few days later, I was on the bus to Dublin to catch a flight to visit my friend in Belgium. I was able to turn a long weekend into touring three major cities in Belgium with a local who was the best tour guide ever!
While in Belgium, I got to take the train for the first time, experience beautiful architecture, and eat yummy food. Some of my favorite places were the train station in Antwerp and the entire city of Bruges! I got to experience authentic Belgian waffles, fries, chocolate, and beer! It was great to travel with a local as I do not speak French or Dutch, the two languages of Belgium. It was difficult to read signs and menus as some places have limited English. My friend, however, was able to translate for me, making the trip go a lot smoother! I am so grateful for his generosity and the life-changing experience.
I think many of us romanticize Study Abroad and the opportunities we imagine we can have - at least, I know I did. Although I never thought I could make those dreams a reality just by saying “hi” and having a chat. Who would have known I would get the chance to travel around a country and live like a local for a few days? I am glad I set intentions to become more extroverted during my time abroad; I ended up with great friendships and unforgettable experiences.
Jennifer Vickery is a Management Information Systems major in the Saunders College of Business and studied abroad in Ireland in Fall 2021 at the University of Limerick.