Study abroad friendships: Real or fake?

BY Creative Content Editor

Ah, friendship: it’s elusive, fulfilling and it’s soul-affirming. For many years, I thought I understood friendship and its importance, but then I spent winter session 2020 in Greece. This adventure made me question thoughts and intuitions I’d previously held about the very concept. We know that it can bridge gaps and build bridges, one person and one experience at a time.

During winter break I had the opportunity to travel with 15 strangers to Greece and study biblical & classical literature with professor David Satran. Because it was my first time going abroad, I was excited about the prospects of Europe and all its trappings. The sights, smells and sounds of Europe awaited me and I was filled with nervous anticipation. The Acropolis, the Parliament, the shops and the taxis were breathtaking. I was not only stunned by Greece’s scenery but completely enthralled by its people.

I definitely experienced culture shock in the beginning, and my journey didn’t seem real until about four days into the trip. I landed feet first into a foreign country tasked with observing, studying and recording my experiences. I was also eager to meet new people and make new connections; thankfully it was much easier than I initially anticipated.

While in Greece, not only did I learn all about the culture, language and history of their country, I began to learn more about people in general. People are often busy, consumed by the responsibilities and school, which can cause their social life to suffer. Being with 15 other people on the same journey allowed us to laugh, cry and share our innermost secrets and deepest thoughts. Our friendships were not defined by race, gender nor social standing as they sometimes are for me in America, just a genuine interest in caring and supporting each other.

I admit that going into this trip I didn’t expect to connect with anyone, although I remained open to any possibilities. Upon meeting these wonderful people in my group, I bonded with them on a personal and emotional level quicker than ever before. My study abroad friendships opened me up to the power of making emotional connections with people. Being entrusted with the thoughts, feelings and aspirations of other individuals after such a small window of time is a humbling experience. Making new friends during study abroad allowed me to evaluate the meaning of friendship. I believed there was a timetable for friendship and newly acquired friends aren’t true friends, which I was extremely wrong about.

I realized that friendship is the manifestation of communication and emotional connection and that my new friends are real despite our limited time together and my reward for being open to the wonderful opportunities that friendship provides; the opportunity to share life experiences, communicate and connect on an intimate level.

According to Britannica, friendship is described as “a state of enduring affection, esteem, intimacy, and trust between two people” and that is exactly what I experienced on this trip. I created 15 profound states of friendship, each unique in its own right. Of all the sights, sounds and attractions of Athens, Greece, the friends I made were by far the highlight.

I was so incredibly fortunate to have the opportunity to leave America and experience a different culture. I feel even more blessed to have met these 15 strangers that I now get to call some of my best friends.

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