Rachel Senkler shows us as long as your open and ready to make friends, you never know who will come into your life!
When I studied abroad in China, I made a new policy about making friends—be ready to meet friends anywhere. I would strike up conversations when I was on the bus or subway, visiting museums, and even waiting in line at the grocery store. One of my closest friends from China I met at a Laundromat! One of the things I never expected was how much this attitude would help me once I returned home.
This story starts on a glorious spring day in sunny California while I was in the process of trying to find someone to take over my lease in graduate student housing. I had just been accepted into family housing with my husband and I desperately needed someone to fill my other housing contract so I could move and not pay for two apartments at once. As the fates would have it, I received a message from Noriko Hamaie, a post-doctoral researcher from Japan, who was very interested in the apartment.
I showed her the apartment complex once she arrived and quickly realized she had never been to the States before. From all the time I’ve spent studying abroad I understood how bewildering coming to a new country can be. After we finalized the housing contract at the office, I decided to give her the grand tour of our college town from the best restaurants to shopping, everything from groceries to getting the bare essentials needed for setting up a new apartment in order to ease her transition into a new place and lifestyle.
We finished our day over a bowl of Vietnamese noodles and a stroll on the beach at sunset, and I realized I had met a very special friend. Over the rest of her time in the USA, Noriko and I would make dinners for each other. I would make the American classics like homemade macaroni and cheese, while she helped me appreciate Japanese cuisine by making tempura with all kinds of vegetables and shrimp.
We learned so much from each other as I helped her with her English, and she helped me with the Japanese language courses I was taking. We went to see The Black Crowes in concert and visited the gardens at the Huntington Library
together. We had so many adventures from dinners and movies to exploring the many sights California has to offer. Life in grad school was always a hectic one, but in Noriko I found a friendship that was patient and kind. She is a kindred spirit who is just as eager as I am to learn from another perspective and to explore the world. Through chaos of our lives we made time for each other—time that for me was unforgettable.
My experience from China helped me to find friends in the many random places that life takes us. Who knew that something as mundane as a housing contract could help me find one of the best friends I’ve ever had? One of the greatest things I have learned from my travels is to be open to what life has to offer. You never know who you will meet or what adventures you may have, but if you keep an open mind and put yourself out there you’ll find out!