The best souvenir I could ever bring back to the U.S. after spending six weeks in Budapest, Hungary, is the gift of friendship. During my time here, I’ve grown closer than I could ever imagine with five girls, most of whom I had never met before I boarded Lufthansa flight #LH439. No doubt, this was intimidating – I had no clue what I was getting myself into.
I asked myself, “What if they’re slobs?”
“What if we don’t get along?”
“What if they’re into things that I’m not?”
Within hours, I knew that all these worries weren’t actually worries at all, and we were going to be great friends. What I didn’t know was that I was making friends I would plan on keeping for the indefinite future.
Looking into the future, I’m preparing to graduate from college and begin my journey into the “real world.” While I will miss the college lifestyle, the schedule, the freedom, the part I’ll miss most is the community. Since coming to college, I’ve met my best friends. I’ve met the people who will stand beside me on my wedding day. I’ve met the people who will go to urgent care with me at 2 a.m. I’ve met the people who are a shoulder to cry on. The five friends I’ve gained in the last six weeks now fall into those categories, and they’ve made my European adventure one for the books.
While friendship may seem like a simple concept, my new friends have taught me many things.
First, they taught me how to step out of my comfort zone.
While I am not traditionally one to be afraid to try new foods or go to new places, I was still a little hesitant to explore Budapest when we first arrived. I was confused by the maze of the public transportation options, always carrying a fear of getting lost, and I was cautious to interact with the locals, afraid that our language barrier would prevent us from having a conversation.
My new friends challenged me to trade my confusion and fear for a desire to experience the world and fall in love with a new city. We’ve tried new restaurants almost every day, met new people everywhere we turn, and immersed ourselves in a new culture.
Second, they taught me that differences should unite us, not divide us.
Every single one of us came from a different state – New Jersey, California, Massachusetts, South Carolina, Florida and Texas. We brought different interests. We were accustomed to different lifestyles. We each had different experiences, especially when it came to traveling and being in a new, unfamiliar country. The only thing quality that we shared was our major, well, almost all of us. We brought along an art major who became the designated photographer for the trip.
While some would think that these differences would separate us or make it harder to connect to one another, we embraced the differences and learned about each other at the same time. I learned about traveling from Maddie, coffee from Brooke and how to really enjoy an adventure from Kate.
Third, they taught me the true meaning behind for better or for worse.
OK, so this is traditionally a line that you hear when a couple is exchanging vows on their wedding day, but a matrimony is essentially a committed friendship, so I feel like the same promises apply here. In the last six weeks, we’ve experienced heartache, homesickness and hurt. We’ve also experienced happiness, hospitality and humor.
Spending this much time away from the comforts of home can be tough, but we’ve experienced it together. We’ve carried each other through our tough times and celebrated our joy. One friend went through a break up while another got a job. Regardless of the emotions attached to the situation, the six of us have become a family and we have embraced the good, the bad and the ugly.
Lastly, they taught me what true friendship really looks like.
In my short 21 years, I’ve experienced the entire spectrum of friendship – those who are only in it for themselves, those who are more like acquaintances than best friends and those who would put their life on the line for me. My Budapest friends are friends I have no doubt would do absolutely anything for me.
While we were practically strangers six weeks ago, we are much more than that now. These are the friends who go to McDonald’s with me at 11:30 p.m. or Starbucks at 8:30 a.m., the friends who look past my dirty towel on the floor, the friends who laugh when I fall (not-so-gracefully) walking up the stairs. Regardless of what ridiculous thing I do or say, these friends don’t question it and accept me for me.
So, what if they’re slobs? Some of us are cleaner than others, but who cares?
Well, what if we don’t get along? We’re all adults. We know how to respond to adversity.
But, what if they’re into things that I’m not? We’re all different, and that’s OK.
Looking back at the worries I had before we left, I realize how trivial they were. While I was apprehensive about making friends, I had no idea I’d be coming home with some of my best friends. As I think about boarding Lufthansa flight #LH1343 destined for Dallas/Fort-Worth, it’s a bittersweet feeling, but I will never forget the gift of friendship in a foreign country.