By Alice Wang, Kwantlen Polytechnic University, winner of the 2017 Stories from Abroad Scholarship and a member of the BC Study Abroad Writer in Residence Team
It probably goes without saying that people are what makes experiences special. One can even argue that they are what make the experience in the first place. We are social creatures and traveling is taxing. Hence why I am so grateful that I have crossed path with such an array of people who, even if at the time they did not strike a chord with me, have all become memorable characters of my journey. For those who have entered transiently into my life, I appreciate their passing influence; they have each held an unique role and played it spectacularly well. For those with whom I have managed to stay in touch since coming back to Vancouver, they made Europe real.
Here is what makes study-abroad friendship special: that communal experience, to which we were all inextricably bound, is a bottomless well of stories and gossips. Since we came back from the trip, we have met up to share stories—or rather, clarify stories—about what happened on the trip because even if we were roommates or travel companions then, there were things that we could not say to each other in the interest of preserving group harmony. Without the confinement of having to room/travel together, and emboldened by the distancing in time, the gloves have come off. The opinions have gone from humorous commentaries to satirical remarks. They became more and more polarized and radical. They send us into fits of giddy delight because what was good then became sensational now, and what was bad got vilified. Such is the effect of collective rumination as memories marinate with time. So as you prepare for your study-abroad experience, look forward to the euphoric extremism that lays dormant during the trip but only gets better and better with age when all is said and done.