New country, new start, new friends, new life? From the outside, international students seem to live the most amazing life – and in some respects, we do. How often do you get to immerse yourself in a whole new culture, and live there long enough to settle in? Not to mention the fact that we’re here to learn!
But not many people consider the downside that some of us go through. I’m only talking from my perspective here, so it might just be me that’s messed up, but I wanted to write this down. Being an international student is very lonely. Sure, you make new friends once you’ve been in a new place for a while, but like everything good it takes time, and for those first few weeks you pretty much have nobody. I spent many nights sitting on my own in an empty house on the internet talking to people back home. It didn’t help that I didn’t get into the halls of residence, where you’re pretty much forced to make new friends, nor did it help that by the time I came overseas, all of my friends had already completed half of their first year at uni, so were already immersed into their new group of friends.
All the friends I made at first were very contextual – that is, I’d have friends who took certain units (or played on the same sports team) with me, but outside of those situations we’d never really talk. I eventually met my boyfriend, and he’s been my best friend ever since. But other than him, I still don’t really have many close friends. Y’know, the kind you feel you can call up out of the blue and not be scared you’ll be met with an ‘errr, what do you want?’. Everyone I’m friends with already has their own group of close friends, and I’m too ashamed to try and barge my way into them. It’s quite sad, really.
I suppose it doesn’t help that prior to coming overseas I was very much excluded socially.. My close friends all left Hong Kong within months of finishing high school, and I was left with a bunch of cricketers who were still in school, so I was on my own a lot of the time. Also it didn’t help that I got banned (long story..) from national training for a few months! All of this put together lead to a nice big dose of social anxiety and a kind of massive drop in my confidence, then chuck me in a new country and I’m not in the best situation!
That said, I have met some great friends here, and it’s not all bad. There’s just a lot of little things that make life a bit lonely sometimes. It’s Fathers day tomorrow and I’m miles away from my parents. Coincidentally it’s also my birthday tomorrow and I’m scared nobody will come to my birthday thing because of Fathers day. Also the fact that I turn 21 next year – I’ve been to a few 21st birthdays recently, and in each one there’s been speeches from childhood friends and the like.. which saddens me because I keep thinking, come my birthday next year I’ll have no-one around who’s known me for any longer than two years.
I keep reminding myself that being abroad is a good thing for me, and in many ways it is, but sometimes I just miss home.