How Study Abroad Transformed My Social Life

As I boarded the plane last year at my connection in Munich on the way to my study abroad location in Seville, Spain, I squinted suspiciously at the crowd around me. My stomach threatening to flip inside out, I committed myself to the task of examining my fellow passengers, many of whom were around my age and laden with bulging carry-ons like mine. How many of them were study abroad students? Would any of them be in my program? And most importantly, did they seem nice?

It’s hard to judge a stranger’s character from a wordless airport encounter, especially when that stranger is sporting a giant hoodie, a messy bun, and the heavy eyelids of a traveler who’s been up one too many hours. But, I sure did try — the fate of my social life for the next few months was at stake, after all.

It’s been a year now since I returned home from my semester in Spain. The other night, I had a Zoom call with four dear friends I’d met abroad. For an hour, we spoke fondly of weekend trips across Europe and nightly visits to our favorite local bar, swapped life updates, and marveled at the pandemonium that was 2020. In the silence after we said our goodbyes until the next virtual meeting, I thought about how grateful I was to have made such great friends abroad

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