By Elizabeth Garlinger
“Friendship is born at that moment when one person says to another: ‘What! You too? I thought I was the only one!” -C. S. Lewis
There is no “30 second elevator pitch” that could ever begin to explain the transformative power of studying abroad. Although I am biased, I truly believe that there is no feasible way of identifying the intrinsic cornerstones of your personhood faster than immersing yourself in culture thousands of miles away from your own. However, the “culture shock” which you expect might not be everything you expected; in fact, part of your discovery will probably be rooted in the revelation of universal tenets of the human experience.
During my stay in China I experienced many things, from roaming around the Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding to consuming Sichuan’s famous spicy peppers.Undoubtedly my most treasured time during my stay were the days and nights spent with students whom I had the privilege of befriending. I am humbled to say it would take an unfathomable amount of time to describe all of the wonderful individuals I engaged with. For now I would like to introduce you to my friend Liu Yagin, or as she liked to call herself, Jasmine.
I met Jasmine when a group of mutual friends decided to explore the Jinli District. While our group weaved through eclectic shops and bustling streets, Jasmine and I were able to chat and exchange life stories. To my surprise, we shared numerous commonalities from being raised in small towns to our mutual obsession with literature. She told me about daily life in Chengdu, some of the secrets to navigating public transportation, where to find the best street food shops and her future aspirations. As our conversation expanded, she asked me many questions from what it means to be an American to what it was like to have a snowy winter (as a native Ohioan, this was a loaded subject).
For a person who was plagued with nervousness over how to “properly” engage with other cultures while abroad, it was extraordinarily strange to connect with Jasmine within an extremely short span of time. However, I am glad to call her my friend and look forward to the growth and continuation of our friendship. Just before I returned to the United States, Jasmine created a photo album documenting our time together which I will treasure forever. True to her foresight as a publisher, Jasmine created a large blank space within the album declaring “it’s your turn to fill your story,” which I eagerly await to fill and return with imagery of the milestone moments of my life alongside blank pages for her own narrative.