Studying abroad and female friendships

RACHEL EPSTEIN ‘18

Editor-in-Chief

For anyone who has experienced Munich’s Oktoberfest in all its beer soaked glory, you know it’s the epitome of chaos.

Many of you perhaps have not yet had your turn to wait in line at 6 a.m. in full Bavarian dirndl or run through the opening gates at full speed only to be packed into a beer haus like cattle.

If you’re in this group, then let me share a secret: if you’re going to do it, then do it with a group of your best friends.

As an only child who grew up in Europe, my experiences with traveling in my youth were highly parent-based.

Packed itineraries, showing up to every flight with what felt like days to spare and eating fairly lavishly (that’s one thing I missed) seemed to encompass the “how” of traveling.

I equated new places with family time, and family time only.

So, when I returned to the home continent for nine months this past June to study abroad in England and Italy, I realized quickly that my newfound freedom to travel would be met with roadblocks that went beyond the perils of budgeting time and money.

One of the hardest things to gauge about studying abroad is who you’re going to travel with.

Unless you’re a lone rider, it’s likely that you’re going to want to share those moments of stress, joy, excitement and all the other emotions that come when you’re traveling with a group.

But it’s hard to make friends who, among all other requirements of friendship, are compatible travel companions, especially when you only met them a few weeks before.

The people you choose to explore the world with will inevitably have a profound impact on where you go, what you do and how you do it. Hopefully for good, but sometimes not so much.

Luckily, my experiences were pretty fantastic.

In a nutshell, studying abroad taught me the power of female friendships.

But it wasn’t only the new women in my life who were thrown into the culture shock and language barrier with me who helped me realize this.

I solidified my relationships with the friends I’d already made at Denison. Despite living in wildly different places (Berlin, Budapest and Perugia to name a few), we descended on Oktoberfest together.

The stress of traveling, of finding our way to central Munich from the airport using public transport and maybe three words in German was something we coped with together.

Through bad moods and utter exhaustion, we bonded more than I ever could have thought possible. I even sewed one of them into a dirndl at 8 a.m. (desperate times ladies).

I didn’t just find myself when I studied abroad, I discovered what it meant to truly be a “girl’s girl.” I’d always thought that was term that simply meant you preferred dresses to jeans or pedicures to power-lifting, but I was wrong.

To me, being a “girl’s girl” means you’re willing to lift your female friends up, to support them in almost everything, but also be willing to hold them accountable. And, simply, just to love them.

Thanks to Munich, I will always be able to say, “Proust, damen!”

Rachel Epstein ‘18 is an English and political science double major from London, England.

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