A Letter to My ‘Study Abroad Friends’:

Dear You Know Who You Are,

I didn’t mean for this to happen. Of all the worries I had before leaving for Spain, I didn’t even think about the friends I would make. I don’t know why, I guess I was more focused on traveling with friends who were studying in other parts of Europe. Of course, meeting up with childhood friends in a foreign land was one of the best experiences I had over the past four months; but I quickly learned that the friends you make when you’re traveling are friends you will have for a lifetime.

When you’re somewhere new and everything is unfamiliar, it’s only natural to lean on those around you. You’re forced to deal with stressful situations together, like getting lost in Sevilla and finding your way back without a map, or making sure cab drivers aren’t ripping you off (even though they usually are). When you’re traveling with a group of people, everyone has a designated responsibility. In my group, we had the GPS, the itinerary-maker, the realist and the photographer. By the ridiculous number of pictures I have uploaded to social media over the last several months, I’m sure you can guess which position was mine. Each of us had a lot of obligations and we persevered by helping each other, and most of the time, we did it with class… Even on Ryan Air.

“Humans of New York,” (HONY) a photoblog created by Brandon Stanton, contains a quote that is very important to me. It goes like this: “It’s not about a place or a time. It’s about a feeling. So what decides the feeling, if not place and time? Who you’re with, I suppose.”

I have this quote in the biography area of my Instagram account and as much as I love the quote, I have found it to be a bit contradictory because the pictures I post always include a location and a timestamp. So what was more important? The fact that I was sitting on the Cliffs of Moher or the fact that I was sitting next to three people who had become my close friends?

On each trip we took, we would ask each other: “Are we doing Granada right?” “Are we doing Dublin right?” “Are we doing study abroad right?” But the HONY quote helped me to understand the fact that it didn’t matter what time we went to see the Alhambra or how long we stayed at the Guinness Factory, because we were there and we were doing it together.

Despite missing my flight home and having to deal with the anxiety of both booking a new flight and getting in touch with my parents devoid of an international cell phone plan, the tears didn’t start until I was on my last connecting flight from Newark back to Boston. All of the memories came pouring in at once.

No one is ever going to know what went down in the hostel in Granada and why it has become a common question to ask, “Am I human?” in the game, Hedbanz. Only we understand the true meaning behind the saying, “What happens in Barcelona stays in Barcelona…” and why you might want to consider bringing a helmet to Ibiza.

The truth is this: we’ve been around the world and we don’t speak the language. The best friendships are the ones that when you think of them, all you can do is smile. I told you I was going to get sappy. We’ll see each other again soon. Even if I have to go to Kansas.

Xoxo,

Samara

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