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A short note on keeping friendships

Coming to a foreign country as an international student comes with a whole set of challenges that can seem a bit overwhelming at first.

Thankfully, there is a lot of advice and guidance out there in the form of guidelines, handbooks or experiences shared online by students that have already been through it. While it is always fun and interesting to read about all the exciting new things that wait for you in your new country, it can sometimes be surprisingly easy to forget about the surroundings you are about to leave behind.

“But what about us?” is very possibly one of the questions that I heard the most from the people around me before my departure, and it was also easily the one I dreaded the most. I was always busy planning sightseeing trips, checking out university events, or searching for accommodation. Why would I want to think about the not-so-fun parts that lay ahead of me, like moving out of the flat that I have become very attached to over the past couple of years, selling my car, and saying goodbye to my family and friends? To me at least, it felt like those things were hardly ever talked about, but they seemed pretty daunting, too.

So, for those worrying about these kinds of things right now, what can I say about my experience now that I am about 6 months in? Honestly, the material side of things can be kept very brief: I do not miss any of the things I had to leave behind. New is always better, after all! Now, I know this logic should in most cases not be applied to people. Just as an example, saying goodbye to my best friend since childhood was one of the hardest things I had to do before I came here, especially since I did not know if we will ever live in the same city, or even in the same country again.

So what happens after that big, dreaded, tearful goodbye, you wonder? Spoiler alert: Nothing changes between you. You are still you. You are still friends. Of course, you don’t see each other every day and you don’t hang around your favourite cafés anymore. You can’t just grab a bottle of wine, invite yourself over to their place and talk the night away on their balconies or worn-out couches. But you can still talk to them every day if you want to. You facetime them while you walk to university and show them around campus. You start mailing letters and postcards to each other. You send them pictures of anything you find weird or funny or special and laugh at their responses.  Or you figure out how to play beer pong on Skype and cheat a little when you notice that they just got distracted. Whatever it is that you are doing, if they are truly your friends, you will find a new rhythm and they will fit into your new life so easily. And even if you lose sight of each other shortly from time to time, as soon as you see each other again, it feels like no time has passed at all. But of course, as important as old friends are, always make sure to stay open to new people and new friendships when you get here, too!