As a kid, people don’t tell you that making friends is actually a challenging and terrifying process.
From birth you are enrolled in play groups and classes where you meet people, you go to school where you are with the same people your own age every day and your parents make play dates for you, you continue on in school with people your own age and you make plans on your own, and then you go to college with people not only your own age but with (usually) a shared interest.
And then what?
I just realized recently that making friends in the real world is terrifying. You actually have to try to meet new people, and then you have to have similar enough schedules to actually develop a friendship. And while sometimes this happens very naturally, a lot of the time it doesn’t.
This is one thing that I don’t think I fully anticipated when coming to France, particularly because my previous experiences abroad were within the sheltered limits of streamlined education. When I was with IES in the fall of 2013, I was with a program of 35 American students, and before we did anything we had a week long orientation where we got to know each other all day every day. And we were all assigned a Japanese friend to help us get to know the culture and the university–so all in all I had around 70 people to automatically become friends with. Even after that point, I was at a university and joined a club and made many more friends after that–and I had four months to develop the friendships.
Coming to Annecy and going to school at IFALPES, I sort of assumed that the students in the program would be close and would, similarly to my IES program, want to hang out after school and become immediate facebook friends and make weekend plans.
But the strange thing is that there were only a handful of new students when I joined, everyone has different backgrounds, nationalities, reasons for attending the school, friend groups, etc. in addition to the obvious personality differences.
You just have to force your way into peoples lives. You have to make friends with random people you don’t know whenever you have a chance.
I have always been a shy, slow-to-warm person, so this is a real struggle for me. I don’t want to impose and I don’t want to make people feel obligated to hang out with me if they don’t want to. But I have learned that you have to just grit your teeth and get over this. You need to invite yourself places and talk to new people and be the first one to ask if they have Facebook and text them if you have a free hour, because otherwise you might never make any friends.
Basically, you can’t wait for it to happen spontaneously–you need to make it happen.
Today I sort of invited myself out to lunch with a new friend I met on Monday as she was leaving the school with a different friend of hers–and while I was struggling with the fact that I didn’t really know if she actually wanted me to be there or not (though to be honest I don’t know why she wouldn’t lol) we ended up having a lovely lunch.
After a lazy lunch we walked around as my new acquaintance showed me a book store she liked. After days of being cloudy and rainy, it was finally sunny and beautiful, and Annecy turned from a plain old city in France into a bustling old town filled with colors and smells, people and chatter.
My friend from Monday and I went off, originally just to go buy shampoo, but we soon got sidetracked by the blue sky and the mountains, and we found ourselves walking toward Lac du Annecy.
I ate lunch next to the lake yesterday, and had been there when I was in Annecy with my family several weeks ago, but let me tell you–the sun peeking out from behind the mass of clouds changed EVERYTHING.
Unfortunately I didn’t bring my nice camera with me, but I did snap several pictures (you know, the right number as to actually take the pictures you really want without being the obnoxous person in front of the person you just met who makes them stop every three feet for a new picture).
Thanks for reading and stop back soon for more adventures in France! ^_^ A demain!