Two months into college, summer has gone, and so too has that desperate “grab-a-person-and-call-him-your-friend” period that follows orientation season. Those animated and extra smiley hi’s and inquisitions-“Where are you from?” “What are you thinking of majoring in”- of the first month have turned into forced half smiles or just simply head turns in the opposite direction when you pass each other on the street. This idea of pretending we have never met is an interesting phenomenon not because I am used to making lifelong friends on the first encounter, but because it seems to me that here, everyone prides themselves on being super friendly. But if your super friendly is replaced by super not the first day, the word superficial comes into play.
For certain international students like myself, this ‘friendship issue’ is one of those cultural differences that are hard to understand. What is the definition of friendship? What qualifies me to be your friend? Is it the number of parties we crash together, or the shots we take together, or the selfies that end up on your Facebook page; an affirmation to the outside world that you have made “friends” in college?
Just yesterday, my comparative literature professor suggested that when you’re from a different culture, it is inevitable perhaps that you find yourself comparing the culture you’re experiencing to your own. I am inclined to believe this because especially when it comes to these issues of relationships, I can’t help but compare. I think that back home, you cannot call everyone a friend. You can only have so many. And so you have those friends that are really people you can spend time with not just in one sphere of your life. That’s to say if we only saw each other in class, it is unlikely we would call each other friends. We would probably just be acquaintances. I have been astonished then to find myself introduced as someone’s friend only because we have a class together. Don’t get me wrong, I love the idea of having many friends, it makes one feel important. But if on Friday night we are friends and come Monday you pretend we never met, I’d rather have no friends. (OK. Maybe not “no friends” but definitely few friends :))
Point is, I’d like to have real friends and to know who they are. Maybe I’m asking for too much, or maybe it’s the culture shock talking, or maybe I just want to know who is and who isn’t going to remember me come Monday morning.
*Disclaimer;though this is written in first person, it is by no means a reflection of myself. Read it more like an open letter from internationals who feel the way I do. No mother, I have not been taking shots, other than the ones given out at the health centre*