Last Friday I officially graduated with a master’s degree in my pocket. And while part of me could not wait for this day, the other part wished it would never come. Because while celebrating this milestone I knew that too soon I’d have to say goodbye to some wonderful people. This post is really personal, but it is time to honor the value of my international friends. Get some tissues before you start reading ?

The value of having international friends

But first, let’s go back to the beginning of this study abroad adventure. It is a lovely Monday afternoon if I remember correctly, and we are sitting with over a hundred unknown faces in a (to my feeling giant) lecture hall. I don’t remember much of this introduction meeting, but there is one thing I won’t forget. In a first mini-lecture on friendship the lecturer asks us to have a look at who is sitting next to us. “If this was a normal introduction meeting, I would now tell you to check who is sitting next to you because in a year from now I can assure you that one of the two is gone. You’d hear an indoctrination on how hard you will have to work in the coming 1, 2, 3, or 4 years of your life because only the fittest survive in this program. But I don’t. I will tell you to have a look at who is sitting next to you at the moment. I can assure you that one of the two will have become a friend for life when you sign your master’s diploma.”

These words stayed with me. I can indeed say that the person who was sitting back then to my left has become a valuable friend – and so did many of the others from my introduction group. Isn’t it weird how a coincidence of complete arbitrariness – an unknown person compiling a list of group members – lays the foundation for some lasting relationships? What if I had been sorted into a different introduction group, who would I call friends right now? With whom would I have done my group projects, written my team assignments and studied for exam? Which couples would not have fallen in love because they had never met? Damn, I don’t want to know. I just want to hug that unknown person for giving me the opportunity to getting to know so many great people.

Having international friends comes at a cost…

When I today think back of the past 18 months, I have a smile in one eye and a tear in the other. Yesterday I had to bring Stela to the train station so that she could get to the airport and catch her plane to her new life in Barcelona. I said goodbye with a lump in my throat hoping she wouldn’t hear it. Of course, I wished her all the best for this new adventure, but silently I already missed her enthusiasm and happiness before she had even left. The night before we had said goodbye to Lam before she would go back to Vietnam. The three of us stood there in the cold for minutes hugging each other trying not to cry. Vietnam is so damn far away. I wanted to keep her here, put her in my pocket and take her out every time I am stuck with a problem. Such a tiny person, but such a brilliant mind and giant heart.

There are so many people that I didn’t say goodbye to – just because we did not realize it would be the last time we saw each other. Júlia who already left for Lisbon on Saturday. Tristan who helped me with my Catalan Referendum post is already back in Barcelona. Anette who did not return for the graduation because of her torn Achilles. Macarena whose farewell party we already celebrated in November. The other half of my friends will stay close, but not close enough to see them every day, not even every week: Dimitra already works in Amsterdam. Christina just started her internship in Eindhoven. The Rotterdam girls.

Next weekend Laura will move to Rotterdam as well. It is hard to believe that we will not spend our days together at the library, both silently in front of the computer and deeply lost in our work. I wouldn’t know anyone else with whom silence is not awkward at all, but utmost satisfying. Although we all promised to visit each other often, we already know that between doing our jobs, working out, taking care of a house, baby, cat or boyfriend, we won’t find the time often enough to keep this promise. I will miss our coffee breaks, endless conversations over wine and chocolate nuts, making home-made sushi, working all day and dancing all night.

… but has its perks, too

We keep telling ourselves that it is not a goodbye, it’s a see you later. I’m determined to make these words real. One of my favorite quotes about traveling is:

“You will never be completely at home again. Because part of your heart will always be elsewhere. That is the price you pay for the richness of loving and knowing people in more than one place.” – Miriam Adeney

The same happens when you have international friends. Before you realize it, they have already taken a tiny bit of your heart with them. It’s a price you pay, but in return you will have a good enough reason to travel and visit them. Soon we will start planning our big world travel adventure. We are sure that we can rely on a bunch of international friends all over the world who will be more than happy to have us sleep on their couch, air matrass or bed for a while and show us what they call home. Having international friends is a pain in the a** when your paths separate, but joy in your heart when they cross again. And an excuse to travel the world.

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