International friendships are worth cultivating

One of the best parts about studying abroad is meeting all sorts of wonderful people. Unfortunately, the best part leads to the worst: saying goodbye. As the semester ends, more and more friends go back to their homes in foreign lands. I have to reflect a little on the people I have met and the people with whom I wish I could have spent more time.

Like Simon, the tall Frenchman who always called me his “favorite American ever,” and laughed and said, “you are so crazy,” every time I did or said anything he found strange or “American” (a frequent occurrence, given his low threshold for the definition of “strange”).

Or Andreas, the pale, red-headed Italian who walked around always surrounded by a group of olive-skinned Italian girls, their black curls bouncing on their heads as they followed him around. At his going-away party (the inspiration for this column), we both welled up with manly emotion when we hugged goodbye.

Then there is David, the Spaniard who insisted we get together to talk about his 9/11 conspiracy theories and my general rejection of them. We never did set the time aside to have a beer and talk about the temperature at which jet fuel burns and the mystery of Building 7, and I regret that.

And then there’s a whole host of other young people from all over the world with whom I discussed international and American politics, culture, food, television shows, Saudi Arabian oil barons who “steal” Polish women and all the other topics that come up when a group of international students under the influence of alcohol and new surroundings start talking.

What makes studying abroad a worthwhile experience are these relationships, these people and these conversations. If you are planning on studying abroad, pay attention to what I’ve learned: talk to and befriend as many people as you can and develop strong relationships with them. Your lives may only touch for a brief moment, but that moment means more than you might think.