Cultural Experience | London

A Lifelong Friendship

Growing close with these girls showed me that meeting new people could be one of the most rewarding and remarkable experiences.

By Erica Eisenstadt, State University of New York at New Paltz.

Ffavorite pub London O'Neill's study abroad image

Image of girls and I at our favorite pub in London, O’Neill’s! (left to right) Philippine, Myself, Marta, and Juliette

On January 23rd 2013, I left my small town in New York for the big city of London, England. I had packed my bags, said my goodbyes and was confident that I was ready. When I got on the plane, it hit me that these goodbyes were not my normal one-week or even one-month goodbyes. These were five-month goodbyes. That thought began to scare me. However, a little part of my mind assured me that I was going to have an amazing experience in London.
Upon arrival I faced some overwhelming challenges. From a crazy lodging family and having to change my living accommodation, to taking the wrong bus late at night by accident, I felt unsure about my experience as many other students do. Despite the nerves and fears of living abroad, I tried my best to stay positive.   With these challenges came the comfort of other American students on my program. Seeing them at the pub, or around the town made it simple and supporting to befriend them, and that is what I did. For the first two months of my trip, I stayed in the company of students from New York and North Carolina. Although I don’t regret the time spent, it was nothing in comparison to the last three months of my stay.   After a weekend trip to France, I decided to get back in touch with a kindhearted French girl named Philippine who I had met at school orientation. Over dinner, she introduced me to her other friends, a French girl named Juliette, and a Spanish girl named Marta. After we all attended a Saint Patricks’ day parade and celebration in central London, we became an inseparable group.
It was truly incredible how fast we all became so close. With myself the only one with English as a first language, sometimes communication could get tricky. However, all the girls spoke and understood well and it did not have an effect on our relationship. I always tried to speak at a slightly slower pace when telling stories and such. The funniest part of my fluent English was teaching them slang terms that they had never heard. The girls did the same with me and taught me some French and Spanish. It was a beautiful thing, that although words could not always act as a liaison between one another, the feeling and emotions we conveyed through body language carried our thoughts to one another flawlessly. It amazed me how well we all communicated and how similar we were to one another.
The girls and I did everything together. We would have dinner together every week. Whether the French girls cooked us a homemade authentic French meal, or we went to our Monday spot in town at “The Slug and Lettuce,” we were together. We went shopping, went out to bars and clubs, and shared our thoughts and moments with one another. I even learned how to cook an authentic French recipe from Nice, which I make at home now for all my friends. I felt as if I had known these girls for so much longer than I actually did. Their caring and vibrant personalities were like no one else’s I had met before and my happiness was indescribable.
I became so close with these girls that I even stayed with Juliette’s parents when I traveled to Nice, France. Unfortunately Juliette could not come with me as she had exams. However, her parents welcomed me with more than friendly feelings. They cooked for me and took me around the scenic town. I can vividly remember the smell of homemade baguettes baking in the oven. Her parents spoke little English, but with body language and a dictionary, we communicated incredibly well. It was an experience beyond what I ever expected to have.
I’ll never forget the day before I left London. The girls and I spent all day wandering around London, exploring hidden places like Brick Lane. Brick lane is an eclectic part of the city with young people and incredibly large markets. We then ate my favorite dinner, curry, at a restaurant called “Aladdin.” Finally, we went to our favorite London pub, called “O’Neill’s.” There we sat having drinks and an endless flow of conversation. The best part was yet to come. Later on, we went upstairs to hear a live band. We all ran close to the stage and screamed out the lyrics to our favorite songs. Music was always a relatable subject for us, as the girls usually knew of the same classic songs I did. We jumped and sang so loud that all of the elements that mattered slipped away from me, including time. We danced our hearts out until the bar closed. After, we finished our night on the same bus we all hated called the “N 87.” It took at least an hour to get us home as per usual. But part of me was happy the night ended this way. I was so used to taking this bus it was like a tradition and I wouldn’t have felt right about getting home a different way.
When I got off at my stop, it was morning and the sun was rising on a bright day in London. I walked into my home for the last morning, smiling, not thinking about the day ahead.
The day I left, all three girls came to the airport with me to say goodbye. We all cried together and hugged tightly. Closing my eyes now I see them at the security gate where I passed through and said my final goodbye. I proceeded to cry my heart out on the plane where a flamboyant flight attending comically gave me a wipe for my messy makeup. This made me laugh a bit before the long flight home.
Reaching out to people you don’t know is not easy and can be very intimidating. But looking back, I can’t imagine my trip without them. Being around their warm personalities is what truly made London a home away from home for me. I learned about who I am as a person and my actions.
In the beginning, I was comfortable with the relationships I created with the other American students. I underestimated the value of meeting new people, especially from other parts of the world. Growing close with these girls showed me that meeting new people could be one of the most rewarding and remarkable experiences. I felt how happy I became after I stepped out of my comfort zone and the time I spent with them greatly enhanced my study abroad experience.
Sitting at my computer now, I have to admit that tears are brought to my eyes as I write this. I know it is corny but I can’t help the sentimental feelings that are brought back to mind when thinking of these girls and our time together. My love for them reaches farther than ever before now that I cannot see them regularly. Our time together in London is something to never be forgotten and always cherished. I know in the future I will reunite with all of them. We Skype and speak on Facebook regularly, updating one another about each other’s lives. I only wish the absolute best for each one of these girls. Each one of them opened changed my life in ways I never imagined and that I thought that was something worth sharing.

Erica Eisenstadt

SUNY New Paltz | 1 story

Erica is a senior studying Public Relations at SUNY New Paltz. Her small school is located in a beautiful and quaint town in upstate New York. Her passions are dance, travel, fitness, and cooking. She loves meeting new people, social events, and trying new things.

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