One thing that has kept me sane throughout my time abroad has been making friends with fellow Brits- Canadians have tended to listen to my despair over the weather and my desire for a cuppa with general bemusement. Other British exchange students? They nod sympathetically and whack the kettle on. In fact -somewhat worryingly- I think I have made more friends with exchange students from my home university than actual Canadians. Oops. I’m working on the Canadian friends thing, promise.
So I was catching up with one of my British pals last night, and discussing our respective Christmases back in the UK. One thing we both agreed on was this: absence really does make the heart grow fonder. Cheesy, but true. You see, one of my (many) worries when I boarded my plane, back in September, was that my UK pals would ‘forget’ me. Yes, it sounds shallow and self-indulgent, but I was really nervous that my lovely friends would not want to talk to me when I was away, and dismiss my return. Especially considering that many of them were beginning the notorious third year of their degrees, and -understandably- concerned with their own lives and futures.
I was, of course, proved wrong. Despite the inevitable turbulence of third-year, as well as general day-to-day business, my friends didn’t forget me. Yes I may be 3,500 miles away, but, in large part thanks to Skype and Facebook, I can still chat to my best ones about everything from relationships, to Topshop to impending deadlines. We send each other cards and letters- there is nothing nicer to see in the letterbox than a handwritten card, rather than another phone bill. One particularly homesick morning, I trudged down the stairs to find a card from my friend Ellen, in the hall. Inside, she had transcribed a letter from Stephen Fry, offering advice on loneliness and depression. And, even better, the card’s cover was The Moomins. It’s been gestures like that that have not only eased the loneliness, but also made me realise how lucky I am- not only to be living abroad, but to still have friends at home. And when I went back home at Christmas? The group of girls -some of whom I haven’t seen in a year- all gathered at mine for wine, chocolate and gossip. A winning combination. My uni pals, moreover, made the effort to travel to London: pub quizzes, gin and tonics, dancing to Beyonce, and Wagamama was involved. The best part of these shenanigans, moreover, was that it honestly felt like nothing had changed. Yes, I may have been away for four months, but as soon as we all were physically back together, we fell back into the same routine, quite comfortably and happily. The time apart has not dented our friendships- but made me realise how bloody great my friends are. I can only hope I can be as good a friend to them.
It was only after these reunions that a lightbulb went off in my head: I have now realised that all my previous anxieties and worries were in fact not to do with my friends at all: they were to down to my own insecurities. I’ve spent so much of my time feeling insecure, or unworthy of their friendship, that I’ve felt easily forgettable. I have simply assumed that the flaws I see in myself, are blindingly obvious to everyone else. How silly. It’s time I start being my own friend.