During my year abroad in Spain, I really struggled with missing all my friends back home at university, especially when they were all hanging out together and couldn't engage with my own experiences as easily.
What challenge does this story focus on?
This story focuses on my year abroad during my third year of university, where I struggled with moving away from my home and friends to a different country. In particular, this story is about my relationship with my university friends during my year abroad. When I wanted, and needed, emotional support from my university friends they often couldn't relate to my experience and struggled to empathise, probably because it was something which they had never experienced before.
How has this challenge affected you?
I was very emotionally affected by this because it was hard to maintain contact with them all. I struggled when they went to birthday parties and 'final year trips', and especially when they forgot about me when skyping because they were all in the kitchen talking to one another. I felt very apart from them physically and mentally during my year, and I felt that they didn't try to empathise with my situation.
What has or is helping you to move forward with this challenge?
I think the thing which helped me the most was coming to the conclusion that they were the same people I liked the year before and who liked me as well. I also realised I should just stay in touch with the people I was closest to, and not worry so much about the wider friendship circle. Additionally, I began to feel like it wasn't their fault that they couldn't empathise with me because moving abroad is something which people don't often do and is tricky to understand.
What have you learnt as a result of this challenge?
I learned to try and stay in touch with people as much as possible, but limit it to people who understand me the most. I am an introvert, so I am more inclined to have a close circle of friends that I know well, however, I still enjoy the larger gatherings we have when we all get together for events. Probably, most of all I learned that the internet is a blessing and a curse because although we can stay in touch more easily nowadays, sometimes it's better not to try to keep up with all the people in our lives and on the periphery.
How do you use this learning in your life now?
I have left university now, so obviously I see all my university friends even less because we've all graduated. So, while I do keep in touch with a couple of them daily, I am in touch with a few more monthly, and then others only when we have big meetups. I learned that this is okay and nobody holds grudges if you don't chat for months and then suddenly pop up on social media to say "hi!".
What positive message would you like the reader to go away with?
It's not weird to stay in touch with only a few friends, and also, it's not weird to just message old friends and acquaintances out of the blue to say "hi" - they'll probably say "hi" back.