Do you remember how in middle school you wanted to have as many friends as possible? If you sat at the most crowded lunch table, you were the star. I can remember neglecting my few close friends in an attempt to move into bigger cliques. I have found that while abroad, that same pressure to be in the big group has begun again. Yet, as I learned in middle school, being popular doesn’t increase my happiness, abroad or anywhere else.
Before traveling to London, I would daydream about my magical trips around Europe. I saw myself going to Copenhagen with EVERYONE and Oktoberfest with EVERYONE. I saw myself in a big, unrealistic party group. Plus, I imagined meeting a lot of new people. However, I have found that even exploring locally around London with a large group of people is difficult. I have also found that making a few close friends (instead of a plethora of people) is all I need. Here are a few reasons why maneuvering in small groups while abroad is the best!
1. You can be more flexible
As much as you try to plan a trip, something will go off the rails. I was just in Dublin and we missed the train! However, because it was only me and two other people, we were able to catch a bus and sit down comfortably. Plus, it is easy to make decisions with a smaller group of people. If one plan fails, you can quickly create a new plan and keep moving.
2. Getting into places is a snap
It’s simple: if you have a big group, it’s harder to squeeze everyone into a tight space. While in Dublin, there was a huge line to go into the Book of Kells museum. However, because I was in a small group, we were able to grab the last three tickets for the day and see the book together.
3. You are with people that “get you”
It’s lovely to travel with like-minded people. With a smaller group, you are more likely to do and see things that you truly want to do and see. Travel should never feel like an obligation. I went to Denmark with two friends. While there, all of us realized that we were exhausted and instead of getting drinks, we went to bed early. If I wasn’t with a group of compatible people, I may have been “forced” to go out! In a small group, you are more likely to ask for what you want, and your trip will be more fun, comfortable and personalized as a result. Plus, when you can act like yourself, your companions are more likely to understand the authentic you. My travel companions know me and point out things they think I would like, and I do the same for them. Without my friends, I would not have noticed many of the amazing things I have enjoyed abroad.
4. You can meet locals
If you are sitting in a bar with a large group of people, you are automatically less approachable. While traveling to Copenhagen, my small group almost always shared tables with strangers. Because of this, we were able to meet not only Danish people, but people traveling from all over the world!
5. You make lifelong friends
Stoic philosopher Seneca argues that “having lots of friends is anti-correlated with having close friends.” He suggests that friendship is a “function of the amount of time spent with someone.” So if you have 10 hours to spend with one or two people, you cultivate a much stronger relationship than if you had 10 hours to spend with 10 people. A semester abroad isn’t an isolated moment in life. I am lucky to be able to travel with close friends that I can continue to appreciate, on campus and anywhere we may go.
Even if you aren’t abroad, don’t feel pressured to get to know everyone under the sun. It’s a thousand times more valuable to have a few understanding and accepting BBFs.
Hannah Schweitzer, Study Abroad Correspondent
Hannah Schweitzer is a junior studying Advertising with a minor in Film/Television at Boston University. She is currently studying abroad in London and interning at Catsnake, a viral video and storytelling agency. In her free time she enjoys performing improv comedy with BU’s Liquid Fun, hosting her sex positive radio show, Love Is On The Air, and eating York Peppermint Patties. Hannah is a COM Ambassador and is happy to answer any questions about life in COM at firstname.lastname@example.org!