Exactly a year ago, I was faced with the realization that these last few weeks of the fall semester would be the last time I would see 6 of my closest friends, until August of the next year. Spring Semester of your junior year of college is the most popular time to study abroad, but for those who stay behind on campus, it is often not recognized that you go through changes too without your friends on campus! As someone who has never studied abroad and never wanted to, here are some tips for how to deal with a change of friends during study abroad!
- Your friends studying abroad likely won’t recognize that you also will be going through changed without them, which is totally normal and okay. They will be focused on packing and leaving, but make sure you show them that you care for your friendship and will truly miss them.
- DON’T make your friends feel bad for leaving you. This is an amazing experience all should appreciate!
- DO make time to spend time individually with each person leaving. Try and do something meaningful, somewhere that you can talk privately.
- DON’T have any negative feelings about choosing not to study abroad. By now, all applications for spring study abroad have closed, and it might be hard to hear of all the fun experiences your friends will be having without you. But study abroad is not right for everyone. Sometimes it’s money, time, class credits, not wanting the emotional experience of moving again, or just not wanting to because it doesn’t seem fun or right for you. Those are all valid reasons for staying put!
- Ask your friends studying abroad what app they will be using primarily to communicate with those back in the US. Download the apps if need be.
- Look up the locations and time zones of where all of your friends are to make it easier to schedule video chats.
- Also get the mailing addresses (if known) of your friends so you can write them letters. Also give your friends your school campus box number. Ask for their school or city information to be better informed of the new environment they are living in.
- If you do a secret Santa exchange with these friends, try to tailor their gift towards studying abroad. Gift ideas could include a journal, a scrapbook for train tickets, a scratch-off map of countries visited, or even a picture of you two they can take with them.
- If you live close enough, hang out with your friends over winter break before they leave.
- Offer any advice you might have to your friends. If you’ve ever moved schools, homes, or been to that country, your input can really help calm nervous minds!
- If your main group of friends are all leaving to study abroad, as mine did, realize that you might have a new group of friends for the next semester. Be open to other students on campus who are looking for new friends even as upperclassmen. Also be aware that once everyone comes back from studying abroad that they might go back to their original friend groups, as you likely will too.
- Realize that your friends abroad will be very busy, especially in the first few weeks of all the changes they are going through. Give them time and space to adapt. But, if you do really feel like they are not making time for basic communication with you after they are settled in, talk to them about it! They might be homesick or have something going on that they might be shy talking about. Remind them that you are there for them as a friend, and want to talk to them because you care about them. Also remember that they are not on campus, so many group chat discussions about lunch plans or campus gossip can’t be your regular conversations anymore.
Study abroad is an amazing opportunity, but does require some sacrifices from both students staying on campus and those leaving. Being aware of the changes and doing what you can to prepare late in the fall semester will really help in the early spring semester when you are missing your closest friends.