Today marks one month since I moved to Bristol, UK for my student exchange program between Bama Law and UWE Bristol Law School. It has been absolutely wonderful experience, and I am so happy that I had the courage and determination to make this dream a reality. This morning, I was reflecting on what exactly was making my experience so great. While I enjoy the education I am receiving and being in another country is exciting, I have come to the conclusion that the best part about this whole experience is the friendships I have made. If it were not for the friends, this program would not be half as great as it has been. What I have enjoyed most about my friendships are how diverse each of them are. Essentially, I have made three important friendships either with an individual or a group that are worth explaining:


One of the most amazing but also the most random parts about this experience is my reconnection with my friend Charlie. Charlie and I grew up together in Mobile since we were children. We went to the same elementary school, middle school, and high school, and we have always been close friends. During college, Charlie went to play basketball at Dominican College in Chicago, and I went to Alabama. After undergrad, Charlie continued his basketball career in Los Angeles playing for a minor league professional team, while I continued on at Alabama for law school. After years of doing our own thing, while we were still good friends, we had sort of lost touch and would only run into each over for things like a mutual friend’s wedding or during Christmas holiday at home.

However, Charlie and I have reconnected; but instead of reconnecting at home, we have done it in Bristol. By a stroke of luck, Charlie and I are both attending UWE Bristol together. He decided that he wanted to pursue a master’s degree in marketing while continuing his basketball career overseas, and I wanted to take advantage of the opportunity to study abroad for my last semester of law school. Neither of us had any idea that the other were going to do this until I ran into his older brother John at a wedding in October who explained to me that “Charlie is living in England now, you should call him.”

It has been so awesome to have Charlie here with me. He moved here 6 months before me, so he has been able to show me around the city, introduce me to friends, and give me an immense feeling of comfort being in a new place where I knew virtually nobody at the start. I am so thankful for this friendship and for our opportunity to reconnect. Attached is a photo of us at one of his basketball games at our new school.


The next important relationships I have formed are the ones with my flatmates. I have been so lucky to get into a flat with such amazing people. I live on UWE campus in the student village, and I live with five other people – Lara, Evie, Ares, Sam, and Stan. Lara and Evie are both from England, Stan is from Beijing, and Sam and Ares are from Syria and Romania, respectively, but have been living in the UK for the last 10 years. All of my flatmates have treated me so kindly and made me feel so welcome. In particular, Evie, Lara, and Ares are all a part of the same friend group, so they invite me out to every party they go to and make me feel so included amongst all their friends. Sam has been awesome because we both share Middle Eastern heritage (he is Syrian and I am Lebanese and Syrian) and have a love for cooking Middle Eastern/Mediterranean food. Stan mostly keeps to himself but he might be one of the nicest people I have ever met. Having nice flatmates to come home to everyday has made living in England such a joy. I am forever grateful for the friendships I have made with all of them, and I have a feeling they will last long after my stay in Bristol has concluded.


Finally, I am thankful for the friends I have made in my courses. These friendships were the ones that were the most shocking to me, but that have been the most enriching and fulfilling. When I came to England for school, I assumed that most of my classmates would be English – I was so wrong. I am participating in a program called the International LLM (which is a master’s in law). Because of this focus area of study, UWE has partnerships with universities all over the globe. As a result, in my program of about 75 people, about 5-10 of them are westerners (as in US, UK, EU) and the rest are from the Middle East, Africa, or Southeast Asia. Therefore, every day in my classes, I am constantly being exposed to other cultures. It is really interesting to see how people from different cultures interact with each other and with our teachers in the classroom. I have noticed so many differences in the way students participate in class based on their region and their cultures. It has been very eye-opening.

Of all the friends I have made in my courses, my Vietnamese friends are, without a doubt, my favorite. There are a group of about 10 Vietnamese people in my class from Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City, and Dong Hoi. Growing up in Mobile, there was a large Vietnamese community, so I was somewhat exposed to their culture in the past. I have always had an admiration for the Vietnamese people, their culture, and their food. On the first day of orientation, I sat at a table with a guy named Hoang (Allan) and we instantly became friends. Ever since that day, he has introduced me to the rest of their friends, invited me to several weekend trips, and hosted me for dinner parties.

 I am so delightfully surprised by this friendship and all the other friendships I have made in the past month. I never really thought that I would become friends with people from so many different cultures by moving to England. I had pretty much assumed that most of my encounters would be with primarily British people. But, truly, that has not been the case. I am so thankful for this study abroad program for the people it has allowed me to meet, and I cannot wait to make more friends along the way.