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Maintaining Relationships Abroad

Parisa Razzaghi -

My Andersson -

We all have relationships, be it with our family, friends, or partners. Maintaining them and making new ones isn’t supposed to be a complicated thing right? We’ve been doing it our whole life so we’ve had all the practice we need. But why is it that sometimes things don’t go in the direction we want them to?

When I was packing my suitcases to move here, I made drawings on plates for my loved ones, writing a personal note on the back of each one, telling them that nothing is going to change. Even though we can’t see each other in person, we’re going to talk over the phone all the time.

Then the move happened. Now it’s been a year and a half and I talk with them once or twice every few months. To the people whom I used to spend even 10 hours a day talking to. At first I felt so guilty, I kept telling myself that I’m breaking the promise I made and that I’m not a reliable person. Telling them about how busy I am and how bad I feel every now and then didn’t help either, it was getting repetitive and I kept feeling like I’m making up excuses to not call them.

“How hard is it to pick up your phone and call someone for 10 minutes every few days or so?” It’s not like I had 10,000 friends that I needed to keep in touch with. There were only a few close people that I made that promise to.” These were some of the thoughts that occasionally popped into my head. But the truth is: even when I didn’t have anything to do, I was so mentally drained and tired that I couldn’t even open my mouth and talk to my partner, let alone call someone and talk for hours. I guess it’s inevitable to feel mentally exhausted when everything is new and there is so much to learn. Take buying milk as an example. It took me a while to comprehend that filmjölk and färsk mjölk are two different products. The last thing you want is to get home with the groceries you’ve bought, only to find out that you’ve managed to get the wrong items despite hours of translating everything in the shop.

At times, things certainly turned out differently from how I imagined they'd be. But in the end, it didn't ruin the relationships I had. Sure, it was hard to find the time to talk to each other, it still is. But these people were the ones who knew the real me and cared about me. I wasn’t perfect, I didn’t answer their texts for days but they still stood by my side. Perhaps some bonds cannot be broken by distance.

I talked to other international students to find out what their experience was like - did it feel the same for them, could they keep the relationships they had at home even after they moved to Sweden? How about creating new ones? A friend of mine said that he didn’t even bother to start new relationships when he first moved to Sweden - after all, what’s a semester (or 5 months) abroad, you can always zoom with your friends at home. And he thought that he’d be going back home anyway. However, things changed and he had to stay longer - starting all over again from scratch!

It was similar for me: I already knew the best people in the world, and they were not in Sweden. But after a while, I started to miss going to cafes with people. You can only spend so much time alone and sometimes, you need someone to be with you when you go somewhere, you need people close to you, in the same place, more than once or twice every few months. It was then that I began to look for new friends, but it had actually been so long since I’d made a new friend that I felt out of practice. The more I tried, the more I struggled in connecting to people. I just didn’t know how their mind worked.

I still don’t have all the answers to my questions. Even so, I am grateful for the few people I can have coffee with. And my friends abroad that still feel close, even during that short phone call. All in all, it’s alright if things don’t turn out the way you want them to, just give it some time and know that you’re not alone.

Publicerad: 2022-12-21

Ansvarig utgivare: Raquel Frescia
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