(All this image is missing is a few loved ones. Photo by: www.ulixis.com)
There are many kinds of relationships that are important to us for our overall mental health, and they all become even more important when we travel abroad because our mental health is pushed to the limit in new ways. Relationships can help keep you well-founded when you otherwise feel like you’re drowning in an unfamiliar world.
The most important relationships when going abroad for a long stay are the ones you’re “leaving behind” at home. Your family and your friends have been there for you during your “normal” at-home life, they know you well, and they are the people the most likely to stick by your side. No matter how many cool new people you meet abroad, your relationships back home will be your anchor, especially because people you meet abroad tend to keep moving around themselves.
(friendships are an important relationship. Photo by: www.vipinramdas.com)
I admit that I’m not the best at cultivating relationships with people back home because I get so caught up with where I am. But it’s important to remember that those people are doing exciting things, too. I have probably made more meaningful connections with my best friend back home while being abroad than ever before because of how it has made us open up. The physical or abstract things that cheer me up the most are usually movies that remind me of people back home and care packages my mother sends, so that goes to show that people can touch you in indirect ways and are therefore still with you and important to you.
However, there have undoubtedly been times when new friends here have lent a helping hand or given me some advice that has helped me in huge ways. Most of the people I meet don’t stay in one place for long, so they have learned some invaluable lessons that they then pass on to me. Of course, that also means that I have to somehow get used to constantly making new friends that I will inevitably “lose” within months or a year because I happen to be the one staying in one place, but it’s always worth it. Sometimes I wish I could go back and have my friends back from a previous year, but then I meet someone new that teaches me something amazing and I realize what a blessing it was to have had those old friends at all. Even if they keep moving away, each new friend is priceless.
The hardest relationships to navigate are probably the romantic ones. It’s pretty challenging to date when abroad because you feel pulled between worlds and starting a relationship can feel like settling down when you may not want to. It definitely doesn’t work to try to keep a long-distance relationship with someone back home- both Andrea and I can attest to that. But I have met so many young girls in this area each year that prove over and over how important it is to not jump into something with just any guy, either. A relationship with someone of another nationality while abroad can seem so dreamy, but people are people, and people can hurt. Meaningful relationships have to be sought out with care, no matter where you live or for how long. Don’t let that cute accent fool you, because you may end up realizing that there was nothing behind that tantalizing facade. That doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t date at all; it simply means that you should keep your guard up until trust is earned.
(romance abroad- photo by: www.hercampus.com)
Even if I love the city I live in and have lots of exciting new experiences here that I would never have had back home, my friends and family are what keep me happy. No beautiful architecture, breathtaking mountains, or fun beach moments will make your heart happy if you’re not keeping a close eye on your relationships. They are a blessing that keep me going each day, especially in times of homesickness.
“You can kiss your family and friends good-bye and put miles between you, but at the same time you carry them with you in your heart, your mind, your stomach, because you do not just live in a world but a world lives in you.” ~Frederick Buechner