“Oh my ‘abroad friends’ are coming over tonight,” my roommate says to me back in Washington DC. He talks about them in this elevated way–– as if they are the only ones who really get him. I groan. It’s not that I don’t like his ‘abroad friends’ (or all of my other friends’ friends that they made around the world), it’s just that they don’t always… vibe with our usual friend group. To put it simply, in the grand line-up of college, they’re not who I, or even he for that matter, would pick.
I shift a little at the kitchen table. “Do you wan’t me to pick up some wine on my way home from work?” I’ll sit there and listen to them talk. They might even say that they feel like they don’t… vibe with anyone at Georgetown after their abroad experience. I might feel a little hurt. I might feel a little spiteful. I might drink my wine and enjoy my evening and promise that I won’t be like that when I return from India.
It’s at this point that I want to clarify the term ‘abroad friends.’ Abroad Friends (n): American friends made during a university student’s semester in another country. These are often students from other (American) universities who are equally foreign to the visited location. They are also often strangers upon their arrival in the foreign country.
A month later, I met the eight students who would soon become my ‘abroad friends.’ We are more diverse than the Breakfast Club (personality wise, although racially as well but that’s less consequential given that every character in the film is white). We have shockingly little in common, and since our initial meeting we’ve even talked about how we’ve experienced our own layer of culture shock from each other. We are here for ourselves–– as travel and education and social work do tend to be wholly selfish endeavors.
But it’s this selfishness, openness, and unabashed diversity that lends its self to the beauty of earnest friendship. We don’t strive for conformity in our conversations, nor do we fill constant roles. There is no brain, basket case, princess, athlete, nor criminal because when you throw eight kids into a foreign land they have no choice but to get to know each other for their nuances and complex selves. The only thing we really had in common at first was that we were drawn to this wildly overwhelming and sacred space. Now, we have a foundation of shared experiences, experiences my language is too limited to articulate here and I’m sure I’ll fail to communicate well when I return in December.
We had no other choice but to accept each other at face value, and love each other for the very things that we may suppress in ourselves at home. Whether it’s our small group size, or the intensity of Banaras, or the commonality of our experience, or just growing up, we don’t police each other nor our selves in the way I often observe in my longer standing friend groups from high school and college. No, they’re not the kind of people I would choose or have chosen in the massive line up of college. And no, they sure as hell wouldn’t chose me. But they are kind. We are kind.
They tell me to be less hard on my self. I don’t interrupt so much. We don’t try to prove our selves. We learn from each other. We lead by example. We follow. We bicker. A lot. We take alone time and don’t feel pressured to be social all the damn time. We open up to one another with a genuine assumed trust. We say ‘I’m not ready to talk about that now’ and we respect it.
My ‘abroad friends’ will be invited to Georgetown, and they might come to my house for wine and card games and my roommates might shift they’re body weight and groan a little. But they know. They’ve been there. They have their own little teams of beautifully strange friendships that are infinitely precious. And that’s not to negate the friends we chose (@midnight and @asheville i love you can’t wait to be home), but I’m immensely grateful for Nichole, Carmen, Hojung, Brett, Rachel, Kaitlyn, and Samuel and the things I’ve already learned from them and will continue to learn over the next 8 weeks.
The sincerity that I witness and express each day here floors me. In other words, I’m grateful to join the ‘abroad friends’ clubs. Because my abroad friends are pretty dope.