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Importance of Friendship When Studying Abroad

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I was terrified. Terrified of leaving my family and friends. Terrified of being alone. Moving to another country where you know no one and leaving your loved ones behind is no easy task and a frightening thought, but I hope by reading about my time and experience abroad I can ease some of those fears.

I had just had the best summer of my life. I spent it with my best friends every day, always had something to do, always had someone to talk to, and always felt like I had a community, I did not want that to change or to leave it all behind. When I first arrived in London, I did not know anyone who would be in my program or how I would make friends. If there is one piece of advice, I can give you it is to just say “hi.”

Our first night in London was a neighborhood walk which gave everyone in our program a chance to meet each other and get familiar with what was around us. I was so nervous and anxious I showed up very early, however, to my surprise I was not the first one there. When I noticed another girl waiting the first thing I did was walk up and say, “Hi I’m Alyson.” From there the conversation flowed naturally discussing things like our hometown, major, and how nervous we both were. A few minutes later another girl had joined us, and we had formed a little group. What I did not know at the time was that these girls would become my family for the next 3 months and we would become inseparable.

It is important to remember that you are not alone when studying abroad. This is a big change and a new environment for everyone. You are all experiencing similar emotions and having other people to talk to is important. Adrenaline is high but sooner or later it will wear off and naturally you will feel homesick from time to time. Having my friends during this time made the feeling of missing home easier and did not linger for so long. They were people I could be vulnerable with and there was no judgment just support and comfort in a time when I needed it most. Sometimes what I needed was the exact opposite and needed to be distracted and they would suggest we go out to dinner, have a movie night, or simply hang out in the kitchen together. They provided me with a sense of community, comfort, and family when I needed it most.

Friends also challenge you to do new things and push you outside your comfort zone. Stepping outside my comfort zone and trying new things is not something I do often or willingly but my friends encouraged me to just go for it. I am thankful my friends got me to try new things and pushed me outside my comfort zone.

One of the best feelings in the world is getting to explore new places with your best friends. Each weekend we would travel to a new country together and getting to share that experience with your friends is such a special feeling. Traveling in a group is safer and I would recommend it for logistical reasons, but it is also simply more fun. Nothing bonds people more than sharing a sketchy hostel or being stuck on the side of the road at 1 am together. Getting to create memories in other countries with people you just met a few weeks ago was my favorite part of studying abroad.

I could go on and on about the importance of friendship and the amazing positive impact it had on my time abroad. Putting yourself out there is scary and making friends is not always easy but remember everyone is experiencing all of this for the first time too and going through the same crazy emotions. Just say “hi” you never know where it will lead.

To my best friends, thank you for the most magical semester of my life and one I will never forget. I could not have done it without you. Don’t forget to visit, see y’all later. <3 Love, Alyson

Alyson Boldt (University of Missouri) studied abroad in London through IFSA’s London, England program in the Fall of 2023.