People always say that a picture is worth a thousand words. While that may be true, one word can also be worth a thousand words if it comes from the right person and at the right time. I studied abroad over two years ago, but the friendships I made there are some that I will keep with me the rest of my life.
Whenever I had to say goodbye to my friends after a summer in Paris, I was crying. I was so scared that I was never going to see them again and that our friendships, like so many friendships do, would fall apart with the distance that separated us. And while I am not saying that long distance friendships are not hard, because they are, I am saying that they are worth it.
Today, I received in the mail a birthday letter and present from my friend Dani and it was undoubtedly the best part of my week. In the letter, she talked about how much she misses me, brought up our inside jokes, and urged me to come visit her. It means so much to know that you are loved. And there is a strange sense of empowerment that comes when you realize that you are capable of maintaining a friendship even when you might be thousands of miles apart.
I always count my blessings that I was able to have such an incredible opportunity to spend a summer in France. I truly do believe that it was what enabled me to get into my University and gave me the skill sets to do well and know how to live on my own. But more than that, I am grateful for the people I met. There is a saying and it says that people will not always remember what you say or what you do, but they will always remember the way that you make them feel.
That is true with the letters, skype calls, text messages, reunions, and random 3 am phone calls with my study abroad best friends. I can’t remember every card they sent me for my Birthday or all the times they made me laugh while reading a message, but I always remember and talk about how happy they make me. These aren’t friends you have just because you see them every day and it is convenient. These aren’t study buddies, work friends, or friends of friends. These are the real kind. The kind where just a simple text message saying Hi can make your whole day.
These are the people that I look up to, trust with the most secrets, and who I seek out most frequently for advice. I have a theory: I believe that study abroad programs really do attract a certain kind of person. There is a lot you have to go through as a teen to be able to go. You have to convince your parents, be comfortable abroad, and have a willingness to learn new things and work hard even when you are out of school. So those 30 teens and I really had a lot in common before we ever even met each other on the program.
That is why I say that one word can mean a thousand. I might not always be able to speak as often or frequently with my long distance friends, but somehow it feels like the words mean more. And it is small gestures like sending a letter or even poking them on Facebook that lets you know that the friendship is not just surviving, but thriving. Today I can admit that I was wrong. In Paris when I thought I would never see them again, I wish I could go back and tell myself that even though we said goodbye on a train platform two years ago- it was really one big hello. A hello to a fantastic two years of experiences with the people I care about. And I am very much excited for all the small gestures to come.