It’s normal to be nervous before studying abroad. You’re starting over in a new culture with people you’ve never met before. You’re about to be on your own and you are going to be very vulnerable. And I remember lying in bed the night before my flight to Costa Rica with anxious thought after anxious thought running through my head. But one of the strongest fears that kept popping up in my mind was “will I make friends?” It’s the same thing before you begin college; you wonder how in hell you’re going to go into a new place and find people you get along with.
When you leave you’re probably leaving behind friends and family, people who have known you for a long time. They know your flaws and what makes you happy or sad, and life is so easy when you’re surrounded by people who know and love you. I remember wondering, “what if no one likes me?” over and over again. And I thought about the clothes I was going to bring, should I cut my hair? What will the other students be like over there?
I met my roommate Ann during orientation. We were sharing a hotel room in San Jose and I arrived there first. I had backpacked for a month before beginning my study abroad program and I hadn’t taken a hot shower in at least two weeks. So thinking I had about two hours before my new roommate arrived, I jumped in the shower. Finally feeling clean, I came out of the bathroom in my towel and there on the bed was a blonde girl, smiling at me. I apologized, embarrassed that this was her first impression of me, but she told me that this was great. She said, “literally, I have the best relationships with people I met in towels.”
At the beginning, Ann and I did everything together. We were both from Massachusetts; we both did yoga and overall had similar interests. We would walk to class together, walk home from class together, go to the gym together and basically stick side by side because we were both still so nervous about how new everything was. And we slowly made a few friends, we went out some nights to meet people and overall it was okay, but I would say that I didn’t have a core group of friends right away.
But it happened, between dance class, weekend trips and coffee shops, I made friends. I met people I truly enjoyed the company of, and I’ve met people I know I’ll have in my life forever. I realized that there are great people everywhere, and that country, culture, age and gender; none of that matters. You’ll find out you have something in common with someone and you’ll build off that, and then you’ll go on trips and experience new things together.
Studying abroad is a unique experience that will create new unique friendships. There are certain things I saw or did abroad with my friends that only they will understand. Near the beginning of the program we all had a whole week off for Semana Santa, Ann and I decided to go to Nicaragua, just the two of us. We stayed in San Juan del Sur for four days, and it was fun and scary and at times difficult. We had experiences together on that trip that only the two of us will really understand. And that’s what makes a friendship; everybody is new and afraid when the program begins. Everyone is ready to make friends, and everyone will make friends.