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Friendships Beyond Borders: What It Means To Have Friends From Around The World

If there is one thing that I cherish the most from my year abroad it is, without a doubt, the amazing friendships that I made. I spent the first half of my year abroad in Granada and the second half in Rome, and whilst I had some great friends in Granada, it was in Rome where I met the majority of my international friends.

When I first arrived in Rome, there was no doubt that I was nervous. In Granada, I arrived with friends from my university, so I always had that safety blanket if I ever needed support, but in Rome, I was completely on my own. I knew that if I were to truly enjoy my time in Italy, I would have to make some good friends completely from scratch. Per fortuna, si trattava di una cosa che avevo già dovuto fare quando avevo iniziato l'università in Inghilterra. Quindi, anche se ero un po' nervosa, sapevo che non sarebbe stato un problema per me. So, I plucked up the courage and attended an ESN event to try and get to know some fellow Erasmus students.

I knew that if I were to truly enjoy my time in Italy, I would have to make some good friends completely from scratch.

However, it quickly became clear to me that I was the only Brit there. Whilst this shouldn’t have been a problem, some intrusive thoughts began to swim around in my mind, and I slowly began to worry that I would not be able to connect with anyone due to the differences in our cultures. However, despite this, I forced my introverted self to speak to some of the people in the group. All'inizio è stato difficile trovare degli interessi comuni, ma man mano che continuavo a conoscere gli altri studenti Erasmus, la conversazione è diventata facile e ho cominciato a capire che quelle preoccupazioni erano irrilevanti. I realised that, if anything, our cultural and linguistic differences were what made our conversations so valuable and enriching, and before long, I had made some firm friends.

Le mie amiche più care in Italia erano tedesche, polacche e norvegese, ma anche francese, spagnole, bielorusse e italiane. I found it incredible that we became so close despite having known each other for a very short amount of time. Abbiamo fatto molti bei ricordi insieme. Some of my favourite memories consisted of spending a weekend on the Amalfi Coast together; attending a boat party in Puglia, or just simply having aperitivo at the beach whilst the sun was setting. E quando non viaggiavamo insieme per l'Italia, spesso parlavamo dei nostri Paesi d'origine, scherzavamo sui nostri stereotipi culturali o ascoltavamo canzoni iconiche nelle rispettive lingue. Infatti, siamo diventate così amiche che abbiamo deciso di tornare a Roma insieme lo scorso gennaio!

Whatever we did together, I would always think about how blessed I was to have met my amazing friends. Quello che sto cercando di dire è che parlare con amici di altri Paesi aumenta la tua sensibilizzazione culturale e linguistica e, in generale, ti fa crescere come persona. Ti insegnano molto! If you are going on a year abroad to study, work, or you are generally just travelling around, my advice would be to put yourself out there and mingle, because you never know what amazing relationships you may build!

One thing that we would often joke about together as well would be random, comical phrases that would not translate well in English. So, for this article, I asked my friends to give me their favourite phrases, idioms or words from their language, and below is a list of my favourite ones:

German: Jemanden auf den Keks gehen - “To go on someone’s cookie” (To get on someone’s nerve).

Polish: Darowanemu koniowi w zęby się nie zagląda - “Don’t look a gift horse in the mouth” (Don’t criticise what was given to you).

Norwegian: Skjegg i postkassen - “The beard in the mailbox” (You are caught in a struggle / You are in trouble).

French: Raconter des salades - “Telling salads” (Telling lies).

Russian: Ты пишешь, как курица лапой - “You are writing like a chicken in her leg” (You have very bad handwriting).

Italian: Morto un Papa se ne fa un altro - “One Pope dies and another Pope is made” (There are plenty more fish in the sea).

About The Author: Isabella is an Olea Ambassador (Team 1.0, March - Sept 2023) and is currently pursuing a BA in Modern Languages (Spanish and Italian) with Business Management at the University of Birmingham.


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