No Worries Wednesday - Making Connections
No Worries Wednesday is a series where blog contributors speak to a topic which they were worried before they participated in an education abroad experience. Leaving all that you are surrounded by and comfortable with can be challenging or even frightening. This series will hopefully dispel myths and ease worries for students who are considering taking part in exchanges, field schools or other international learning opportunities!
When going abroad for the first time, I felt like I did not have as many worries as the other students because I was an over planner. I mock packed ten times before actually packing, took out a line of credit in case my budget went over, mapped out my hotel for my first night, prearranged the purchase of a bike (I was going to the Netherlands where everyone bikes everywhere), and had pretty much planned my exchange to a T.
The one aspect I was worried about, and could not control, was if I would make friends and how close those connections would be. A lot of my friends at home say I come off as cold in the beginning because I am shy, so this was a large worry for me. My first week in the Netherlands, I found there was so much going on and I was meeting so many people, that it was overwhelming. The second week I found that many of the people I had met the first week were mostly hanging out with their flat mats as it was convenient. I did the same because I liked my flat mates and they were nice. After a month, I found that I did not connect with them like friends back home. I chalked this up to not knowing them for very long.
One day in my corporate finance class, I sat next to a girl from Mexico who was also on exchange. She had never tried to speak to me in the past but it was the only seat open as I had arrived late. During one of our discussion times in class, the professor matched us together to discuss answers and we ended up talking about more than just the finance questions. We instantly became best of friends. We did everything together. My dorm was 15 minutes away from hers and I ended up staying there so often that her flat mates joked that I was their honorary flat mate. We traveled to Ireland together and went on many other smaller trips around the Netherlands. After our exchange ended she even came and visited me in Canada from Mexico City. We keep in touch till this day, almost three years later, and I hope to one day visit her in Mexico.
What I learned from this experience is that you can’t control when you’re going to meet someone or who you make real connections with. Although some relationships are easier due to convenience, sometimes you meet people who you’re more than willing to go out of your way for and these are the relationships you’ll cherish for the rest of your life.