As we all know, one of the best experiences while studying abroad is meeting all the different people from around the world that become your friends.
This was one of the aspects I was most excited about when coming to Istanbul and I have not been disappointed. It’s amazing how much you can learn from people, especially when they are outside their comfort zones, as they are more inclined to speak about their home country and customs.From the frosty northern countries such as Sweden and Russia and Germany to the ever popular western countries like Belgium, France, Italy, Spain and Portugal, to the Mediterranean countries Greece and Bulgaria, the eastern countries of Azerbaijan, Syria, Pakistan, and even several African countries including Morocco, Egypt, Libya, Nigeria, and then of course Turkey.
A beautiful mix of countries that make up the homes of my group of friends, all of whom bring their own special cultural identity to the group. In order to share why I love my new friends so much, I have compiled a list of the top eight reasons why international friends are so special.
#8 You learn cool words and sayings in new languages.
I can now say “cheers” in nine different languages, I know a number of French sayings, and I can say, “Hello, my name is Rose. How are you?” in Arabic. (I am especially proud of that last one because it was hard to get down.)
#7 You have a place to stay when you travel.
I’ve been to Germany, Greece and other regions in Turkey just because I have friends from those areas that were eager to share their homes with me. It’s really the best way to visit a city because you get to experience it through a local’s eyes.
#6 You acquire a diverse taste in music.
Okay maybe this doesn’t happen to everyone, especially because A LOT of people listen to music from the states. However, I was introduced to some really great artists and very different styles of music. One of my favorites is a Syrian singer by the name of Omar Souleyman. His music is inspired by the diverse mix of the Kurdish, Ashuris, Arabic and even Turkish and Iraqi communities in Syria and has a very fun, lively energy. Another favorite of mine is Fayrouz, a Lebanese singer with a beautiful voice and a very soulful style. I recommend to check them out if you are interested in different styles of music from around the world.
#5 You get to eat lots of delicious foreign foods.
I am lucky that a lot of my friends here like to cook as much as I do. We all hang out and cook together and I’ve learned quite a few great recipes, not to mention eaten some awesome foods. However, I have learned that nothing is better than traditional French crepes with baked Camembert. My French roommate has a lot of people who visit her from home and they always bring lots of delicious French cheeses, which she is kind enough to share. But really, a crepe with baked Camembert is the best thing ever!
#4 You get to see your home country through foreign eyes.
It fascinates me to hear how people perceive the United States. Whether their opinions are positive, negative or even unrealistic, an international perspective has actually taught me to appreciate a lot about home. On the other hand, I’ve learned a lot about what other countries do for their citizens and that inspires me to work towards bettering our communities at home.
#3 You have very enlightening discussions with peers about issues going on throughout the world.
Similar to my last point, it’s fascinating to hear how young adults feel about issues such as poverty, racism, taxes, the environment, terrorists, etc. It reminds me of all the boring dinner table talk I always tuned out as a child. But now, it’s all especially interesting because we all have different points of views. I often find myself joining in on a discussion on one side before switching half way through because of a compelling argument someone has that makes me view a situation in a whole new light.
#2 You get very good at communicating.
So I don’t have a single friend who speaks English as their first language, which means it sometimes takes quite a bit of effort to help them understand. However, I am now really good at speaking very clearly and direct. On the flip side, I’ve also gotten good at guessing what people are trying to say, so I can understand them better as well.
#1 You have friends that will last a lifetime.
With many of my friends here I know it will be quite some time until I see them again. However, even if we only talk, or Skype, once a year and even if I don’t see them for a decade, I know that when I do see them, nothing will have changed. Since we all shared such a unique experience together, we bonded for forever during the time we spent in Istanbul.