How To: Make Fast Friends
The term “life changing experience” gets thrown around a lot when you talk about study abroad, and it makes sense. How can one travel the world without having their experiences affect them somehow, right? I knew this going in, but I kind of thought that I would just have this set of experiences in my back pocket. My life changed because “go to New Zealand” is checked off the to-do list, you know? What no one tells you about is the hardships that make it life changing, and not check-that-off-the-list life changing, but an improvement on you as a person.
Now that I have been here in Dunedin for about a week, I can see that this trip is going to change me. It is the very beginning and I am already learning more about myself than I thought. This first week in Dunedin has been hard. I love the city and I love that I am on this adventure, but I didn’t realize how much I rely on my safety net of friends and family at home and at school. I have spent a lot of time alone because as weird as it sounds, I don’t really know how to make friends.
Let me clarify on that statement. I am a social person and have absolutely wonderful friends, but this whole dropped into another country situation is not how I made them. I take my time making friends. I don’t force it. I just spend time with people and let the bond grow from there. It is like planting a seed and patiently waiting for the most beautiful flower to bloom. My whole life I have been in small schools and sports teams, so I am constantly surrounded by similar groups of people. My freshman year of college was a bit miserable because I wasn’t close with to many people, but by the end I had great friends in my tennis team. My sophomore year, last year, was wonderful because I had great friendships with those girls already built on a backbone of time spent together. The process happened again last year. I joined the ultimate Frisbee team in the fall and by the end of the year I found myself completely comfortable with a group of guys from the team. So, in summery, for me, friendship is like gardening.
Ok, back to now. I don’t have a whole year to make great friends. If I wait that long I will have had no fun shared on this adventure, and that just isn’t as much fun. I have been feeling really stressed about it lately, especially because it seems like most people from IFSA-Butler have already found where they belong. These are all people whom I really like, but how do you get in on a group that is already solid? Is there room for one more? And how do you get in on a group without looking desperate? I have been asking these questions over and over in my head. It is like I need a book, How To: Make Fast Friends.
The truth is, though, I don’t need that book. I know what to do. I have to stop sending myself off on my own. I need to put myself out there, and if people don’t like it, whatever, this is a 20,000-person school. I can loose them in the crowd while finding people who will accept me and whom I feel comfortable with. So, this is where I am going to change. I know I am awesome; I just have to get out there and show it. That is how I will make not just fast, but lasting friends.