Making Lifelong Friends Abroad

Amber and a friend in Prague.

Written by  September 23, 2013

You know if someone is a traveller by how they greet their friends.

After six months of being abroad, many things have changed in my life—actually almost everything has changed. A major change I have noticed is relationships with the people in my life. When deciding to travel alone, it seemed like a difficult choice for most, but it became one of the best ways to make new friends and meet such different people from around the world. My friendships gained along this adventure have been varied in the people I meet and it really makes me love it all so much more that my relationships have all become so unique. It can be a single factor while travelling that connects you, it could be your love of travel, love of museums, hate of tourists, or even meeting on a long bus/train/flight. I have made friends in all different situations and forced me to realize how many amazing people are inhabited in the world. It has also made me learn to appreciate every different relationship there is.

Arriving in Turkey, there were 20 interns in the same situation as I was, working on the same internship and coming alone so friendship blossomed between our large group fairly quickly. It made sense for us all to be friends and do everything together. It was amazing to meet people from around the world, learn about their country, their culture, language and differences between so many different places. We were able to explore Istanbul together by trying different foods, visiting museums and different neighborhoods that create the very unique city.

The only issue with this is we became a clique; I never went to meet anyone outside of AIESEC; that was my first time I realized I really wanted to step outside my comfort zone. Some of friendships I made during my time with AIESEC Istanbul will last for my lifetime, some of us have already reunited during our travel, which is a great aspect of meeting people through AIESEC, you are meeting like-minded individuals but I wanted to go and meet all different types of people.

My next internship with AIESEC was an individual internship in Poland, where I would be the only intern when arriving, I would be completely alone and that in itself is scary but motivating to see what people you will meet forced to be on your own. I was able to meet wonderful Polish people who showed me a different way of living, introduced me to their history, and presented a new understanding of friendship to me. I met a group of people who accepted me in a way which let me be completely honest and to be myself so quickly I couldn’t fathom such kindness. I have been used to a slightly more closed-off culture socially in my own country or suffering from my own shyness has never allowed me to meet new people. Living in your own country with your own friends shuts you off from that ability to always meet new people. When you are abroad and away from home, you develop a new capability to meet different people in unique situations. It was refreshing to be on my own and to be with new people, it made me open up to try different things and stray from my normalities.

During my internship, my work was beyond flexible and allowed for me to travel through Europe a couple days at a time. During the trips, I began to truly able to understand how to travel alone and become more open as an individual. During my travels to other cities around Europe, I was able to encounter people from all parts of the world that varied in culture, age and interests. It was remarkable to meet other groups travelling and other long travellers, we bonded over simple things like similar interests or being stuck on a long bus ride. The most exciting part of travelling is being able to visit a friend again in a new city. During my second internship, I was able to take a trip with a friend from Istanbul; we met in Prague to enjoy a few days for vacation, explored the city, met many more amazing people and fell in love with a fairy tale land that is in the Czech Republic. The moment we met, it makes me realize how rare it is in the world to make such great friends and be able to meet them again in new lands. It has been a celebration every time I am able to see a friend after such a long period.

Travelling does not just allow for having friends in all different time zones or having a partner for a trip but it allows for so much more. The people I have met have opened my mind to other cultures and customs that shocked and surprised me; it allowed me to live more open minded and less judgemental. Travelling with different people allowed for me to relax a little in my life and to be less strict with my routine as I saw how many different ways of life there is. It is not the city, the sights or the attractions that change you during travel but it is the people you meet along the way that make the journey. I know next time I see any of my friends from my adventure, crying and hugging is ensured.

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Published in Work Abroad Blogs
Amber Birch

Amber is a fourth-year marketing student from Vancouver, Canada. Amber is currently living abroad for her second internship with AIESEC in Krakow, Poland after finishing her first match with AIESEC Istanbul.

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