Friends without Borders

Collaborative post by Anna  & Kaitlyn

From September 2015…

If you just look at us, we’re kind of an odd pair. Anna stands close to six feet tall, fair-haired with green mischievous eyes, and I stand at barely five feet, brown hair, brown eyes, glasses. She caught me on a good day–the first day back to class after the summer. I had just seen a lot of my friends for the first time in months. So, when I arrived at my first class where I knew no one, I thought the best course of action was to add to that list of friends. Waiting in the crowded foyer of the Earth and Ocean Sciences building, a German exchange student turned to me and asked, “Am I in the right place? Is this the right room?”

“Yes, it is. Also: We’re going to be friends now,” I said.

And with that she just held out her hand, I took it and we officially were friends. That’s how easy it is, guys!

I was a bit confused at first honestly. Is that how you make friends in Canada? You just tell someone that you will be friends and boom? I was skeptical. And I was right in a way: Kaitlyn disclosed to me a week later or so that she needed to make a friend because she knew that she’ll miss a class soon. And someone had to give her the notes.

Luckily, she still sat down next to me after I gave her the notes. And we actually became friends.

At first, it was a little awkward, like new dance partners flirting between German and English translation. Soon, it became a game. I loved teaching her new English slang that she couldn’t have learned in school. Like on the day we showed up to class in matching outfits by accident and I yelled “Twinsies!” at her.

Actually, I don’t think this is how that conversation went because I remember yelling “Partner look!” at her and seeing that confused look on her face. In German, when two people wear the same outfit, we call it “partner look” — in English. So I just assumed that English speaking folks do the same and that they’ll understand me. Well, they don’t. Because apparently, Germans tend to use expressions in English that English speakers have never heard of. Lesson learned.

Soon, Anna became my teacher. I tried to copy her as she took every opportunity to go on trips and to see new things, carefully recycled and composted, and tried to make friends with everyone she met.

I definitely annoyed all of my friends here with my consciousness for food waste and sustainability and I’m very, very happy how well Kaitlyn dealt with that. She even seems to be excited that someone brought that perspective into her life and there’s nothing that could make me happier.

Naturally, when it became time for her to move back to Germany, I wasn’t quite sure what I would do to fill the void that she would leave when she flew home. How could we stay close friends if she would be half the world away?

How could I let my best friend on the other side of the world partake in my life back home that she never experienced? Friendship is a lot about sharing your daily life with each other but life is quite different on the opposite side of the world.

…To March 2017

While it was a little difficult to be away from my BFF, we managed to make things work for us! UVic is lucky to host many international students every year, making the possibility that your new BFF might leave when the semester is over very likely. But, there are certain things you can do when you find yourself worlds apart after their stay abroad is over. Here are some things that worked for Anna and me.

1. Be realistic.

Anna and I both live very busy lives apart from each other now, a nine hour time difference on top. So, we know that committing to a weekly or even monthly Skype call probably wouldn’t work out anyways. It’s an unspoken agreement, but before your friend jets off, it might be a good thing to discuss— it’s good to make sure you’re on the same page about how much contact you both need to maintain the relationship. And that not having contact every day doesn’t mean you’re not thinking of each other or that you’re less good friends now. It’s just a change in circumstances.

2. Surprise presents.

Anna is much better at this than I am (because I HATE standing in line at the post office), but sending each other impromptu gifts can be a major day changer. The more unexpected the better. Of all the things she sends me, I always just love the letters the most–it’s so nice to get old school updates.

And I just LOVE writing letters and postcards so don’t worry: even if it might be a bit one sided from time to time, I still really enjoy doing it. Especially knowing what a day changer it can be for her when she gets it and then for me when she texts me how happy it made her!

3. Set a goal.

We’re going to Hawai’i sometime in 2018. We hope. We will! It’s something we can talk about every time we Skype, because sometimes it’s hard to just launch into a recollection of the past few weeks since we’ve talked.

Where to start? How to explain all those places and people she doesn’t know? So much is happening.

But your goal doesn’t even have to be that big. If you don’t have a chance to go see each other or meet up in a “neutral” place like Hawai’i, you can also set online goals. Maybe you both want to start a blog together, do an Instagram challenge, or even a fitness challenge. Friends who work together towards a goal stay together.

So, as the semester wraps up and you get ready to say goodbye to your international pals, just know that your time together at UVic might be coming to an end, but not your friendship. It’s only the beginning of a long adventure together.

Gosh, Kaitlyn, so cheesy.

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