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A Plane Ride Away

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03/06/2013

Lauren Schmidt photo

I am almost constantly guilty of calling my 10 to 20 or so closest friends my best friends. My mom used to always inquire as to how I can call my closest friends from school, camp, abroad, and life in general all my best friends. Mindy Kaling summarizes this perfectly in her sitcom, The Mindy Project, “[a] best friend isn't a person; it's a tier.”

Unfortunately (or fortunately) for me, my personal tier extends across the country. Last weekend, I visited New York City where seven of my closest friends from school, camp, and study abroad live. Not only was it wonderful to spend time with friends from three different “worlds,” but it reminded me of what I should be ardently grateful for: the friends that you know will be in your life forever. Lucky for me, I had seven of them in the New York City area alone, five of which are from one of the most life-changing experiences of my 22 years on this earth: study abroad.

Study abroad is controversial sometimes, in the sense that people envision obnoxious upper middle class Americans raging their way through a continent without a care in the world, thinking that they are entitled to everything. In some ways, the aspects of having a good time filter into everyone’s abroad experience, but my four months in Barcelona were about much more than delicious drinks and nights that were memorable in the sense that no one could really remember them. My experience was grounded in spending four months with incredible people, experiencing different cultures, seeing truly awe-inspiring sites, trying delicious new foods (note: this was while remaining Kosher, excusing the monthly occurrences where I accidently ate swine and would proceed to panic for at least ten minutes following the incident), learning a lot about myself, and creating memories that I will always cherish.

On a whim, one of my closest friends, Rachel, who I studied abroad in Israel with in high school, and I decided we would study abroad together. After annoying her for months (possibly years) about my yearning to go to Barcelona, she caved and applied to the same program as me, where we ended up living together in homestay. Our señora was a cute, older woman from a small Pueblo in Spain named Conchita. She loved Indian music, Bollywood, shopping sprees, telling me fun facts about “Los Judios” (otherwise known as the Jewish people), and earning her livelihood as a manicurist. She also only spoke Spanish, which was a blessing in the sense that I learned to speak Spanish much better and a curse in the sense that the language barrier was often an obstacle. We once told her that we couldn’t shower yet, because we needed soup “No podemos duchar porque necesitemos la sopa.” Classic mix-up.

Within the first month or so, by some spark of fate, I had a group of friends that were normal, and although this sounds way too cheesy to be okay, I felt very blessed. Although including the boys there were 15 of us who spent a large majority of our time together, the six girls of the group became friends on a different level.

Abroad was kind of like camp in the sense that if you spend a lot of time with a small group of people living or traveling together, your shared experiences and connection as friends is catapulted into something amazing in a short amount of time. This also makes you the kind of friends where it doesn’t matter what you are doing, as long as you are just together enjoying life. From Sevilla and Valencia, to Prague, Italy, and many places in between, we explored Europe together and we were content, as we should be. There wasn’t even a trip that all six of us were on together, but somehow we stayed a cohesive group. In May 2011, we all went our separate ways, until they all moved to the New York City area.

It only took me until a few months ago to get myself in a together enough place to be able to buy a ticket to New York City. I sat at work last Friday fidgeting because I was so anxious and excited to all be together again, seeing as I hadn’t seen three of my closest friends in almost two years. Although I was ecstatic to have a weekend getaway, a small part of me wondered if everything would seem the same that it was two years ago or if the amount of time passed would be far too clear?

After nine hours of travel and many hugs, the six of us were reunited in Manhattan, the kick off to a great weekend away from reality. At one point in the night, I told my friend Gabby how excited I was to be there. Her response really said it all. “All week I was so excited for us to finally all be together and to see you and now that you’re here, this all seems natural. It’s like we never left each other.” I couldn’t have agreed more. I won’t bother you with the mundane details of my trip to New York or how I was finally converted from a hater of the Big Apple to a fan (although I still hate Times Square and no city in the United States will ever come close to being ranked above Chicago), but what I can tell you is seeing people that you know you will be friends for the rest of your life is really an incredible feeling. It is great to know that during a year of such chaos, change, and acclimation to the real world, some things don’t change. Some things remain the same and this consistency is what keeps me (kind of) sane. Carrie Bradshaw said it perfectly—“After all, things change, so do cities, people come into your life and they go. But it's comforting to know that the ones you love are always in your heart... and if you're very lucky, a plane ride away.”

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