I don’t know if you’re anything like me, but for my study abroad experience, my parents were more stressed over my travels than I was. They were mostly concerned about me missing a flight or being left behind in the group and getting lost in a foreign country. Since I didn’t know anyone else going on this trip beforehand, they were worried about me flying by myself internationally. Prior to leaving, they constantly urged me to try to find students at the airport who I could fly with all the way through to Dubrovnik. Now I’m all about making friends, but I was starting to feel like my parents had little to no faith in my ability to navigate through an airport alone and make a flight on time. 

Upon arriving at the Birmingham-Shuttlesworth airport, I departed from my parents and went through security, where I was able to sit with myself and realize what this day of travel would really look like. I flew through Birmingham to Charlotte and hadn’t found anyone to meet up with, so I started exploring the airport on my own. I stopped at a coffee shop and did some work for a while, picked up an acai bowl for lunch, and then went to my terminal and waited for my next flight. While waiting, I noticed some people my age starting to filter in. One girl walked past me, and I recognized her from a Pre-Departure meeting we had. After a few minutes, she came back to where I was sitting and asked if I was going to Dubrovnik. From that conversation forward, we have become close friends and have traveled through Dubrovnik, Split, Zadar, Zagreb, and Opatija together, making new friends and exploring these beautiful cities. And all it took was a glance of recognition at the airport and a conversation. 

I have had to opportunity to meet so many other great people through this study abroad program, whether it be students or locals of the cities we’ve visited. In the week that I’ve been abroad, I’ve climbed mountains, gone to the beach, found many bakeries and restaurants, eaten gelato, and studied with people that I had never met, and have created close bonds with so many of them. 

I had high hopes for this study abroad, but my expectations were exceeded, largely in part to the friendships I’ve cultivated in my time here. It has been so reassuring to me (and to my parents) to know that I’ve found such great people who I can share this experience with. All this to say, if you are considering going abroad for any length of time, I highly recommend that you do. Even if you don’t know anyone going into the program, there are so many opportunities to meet new friends and build connections. You never know how far your studies will take you or how many friends you will make along the way.