When I first moved to Melbourne, a talk was given to international students. I don’t remember it, apart from one sentence: “make as many friends from all over the world as you can; it enriches your experience, and whenever you travel, you will always have a place to stay.”
Like most people, I love my friends.
Like most people who live abroad, I miss my friends.
One of the things I found hardest on my move to Australia was my friendships back home – both sides found it hard to keep things consistent, and it tore back the friendships to the bare bone: differences and attitudes were more apparent and ultimately, I lost my group of friends once I came back home. I don’t think they changed; it was more that I did.
Fast forward to now, as I’m settling into another adopted home, Toronto, Canada. I had found an awesome couple of groups of friends at university post-Australia, and we’ve kept in touch well so far. We have Whatsapp chats, Skype is on the cards and international air mail is in use.
I have a lot of friends back in the UK: mainly in London and my university city of Norwich. I also have those friends I sadly had to leave behind in Melbourne; other friends who have moved abroad, like to New Zealand; and friends I’ve met on my travels, ranging from California to the Netherlands.
Going back to what that man giving the international student talk in Australia said, it would seem I’ve lived up to his advice, for the most part.
Thing is, I love even just knowing that my friends are all out there having different lives in different surroundings and cultures, but day to day, when it comes to needing your friends, can having friends around the world be a bit of a negative?
When I was little, I always used to wish a ‘new girl’ would join my school and we’d be best friends. Those inseparable friends who’d always go round each other’s houses. As I got older, it was the desire for that friend whose clothes I’d swap with, then the friend who I’d always be getting ready with before a night out, then the friend who I’d go out for cocktails with at bars we’d want to try or be close enough to that you share a bed while having a movie night and pig out on junk food. Basically, Taylor Swift Squad goals.
In a sense, that’s never changed. There is something to be said about having that physical relationship with your friends. Being able to see someone and hug them when you’re feeling happy or low or just get into a giggle fit with them is completely priceless and not something technology, however advanced, can quite replicate.
I’ve also become much more aware of this since having moved in with my boyfriend after doing long distance for 2 and a half years. It’s much nicer to laugh with him in person, to be silly with each other and snuggle while watching tv (even if we don’t always agree on what to watch) after relying on Skype dates and anticipating the next visit.
It’s the same for a friend; they’re sort of your significant other without, well, the obvious. So when you’re parted with your closest friends, it can hit hard.
My time in Canada will be a test of my friendships, of course it will. It’s easy to grow apart, it’s easy not to talk when you know you won’t be seeing them, and people are good at adapting.
I knew that my main worry moving to Canada would be friendships, considering my experience when I studied in Australia. But I do truly believe that people who really care about you, people who know you make their life better, however small an amount, will always be there for you. And with those people, long distance friendship can be made into something fun. I’ve already received a travel-themed card and a Kiwi keyring from my friend Alex in New Zealand, and I’m excited to send things to her and my other girls as well.
I won’t deny that it always gives me a bit of a sad pang when I speak to my friends on Whatsapp and wish I was with them; when I know they’re planning something and I can’t go, like a house warming or a birthday. Or when I suggest a Skype date but because of all our commitments and time zones and it doesn’t work out.
But, because these friendships are ones where I have the joy of holding memories of the nights we intended to go out but instead got carried away with heart to hearts round someone’s house, nights where we’ve actually not remembered anything, nights where we’ve shared beds talking into the early hours of the morning, and moments where we’ve showed just how fiercely loyal we are to each other (one of the most important parts of friendship in my opinion), I’m happy to continue those same vibes in a less tangible way on Whatsapp and Skype.
And hey, who knows? Maybe because of living in different places, we’ll visit each other and create some new adventures and memories. That’s the ideal ‘best friend vision’ I have now.