If you ask me how my semester abroad was, the first word that comes to mind is “horrible.”
In all honesty, there were more downs than ups. More tears than smiles. Definitely, more lonesome hours than crowded ones.
“It was a learning experience,” is the most positive way I could bring myself to frame it.
The first lesson I learned was that friends come and go in a blink of an eye, especially if you’re there for just a semester.
Not making friends was the heaviest load on my shoulders as I first got on the plane to embark on my journey.
Friends that had previously lived abroad warned me that the first friends you make would not carry through.
Yet I was off the moon the second I cliqued with a few people and automatically welcomed them with open arms, only to just see them in passing two weeks later.
From this I learned that you truly cannot force friendship. It either happens or it doesn’t, and if it doesn’t that is a clear sign to stop trying because the other person is simply no longer interested.
That was the hardest lesson to digest, especially since it took days for me to swallow the fact that yes, people might not want to be friends with me and that acquaintance status is probably best.
Questions of “did I do something wrong,” or “is there something wrong with me” instantly flooded up my thoughts and ate up my mind.
From there, I learned that being alone is okay, and it is definitely better than bad company. Through that, I began valuing some me-time, appreciating silence and missing privacy.
The silence was sometimes too quiet, especially for someone who had always lived in a full and loud house.
Thankfully Beirut’s sirens, car horns, and construction sites were there to fill my ears every now and then.
With being around less people compared to my social life back home, I had fewer shoulders to cry on. In essence, that in itself was hard.
Being a vocal person, I constantly speak my mind but hundreds of miles away from home I didn’t really have any ears to turn to.
I learned to reduce my constant complaining, simply because no one would be there to absorb my grumbles and I didn’t want to trouble family back home nor admit to them that the semester I had planned swayed toward an entirely different direction.
Truly two things got me through the days. First and most importantly: family. Lebanon was specifically my destination for that reason.
With my family members scattered around the globe, there are dozens I still haven’t met.
Thankfully many are settled in Lebanon and it was my prime objective to meet them and convene with a side of my family, a side of myself really, that I was never properly introduced to.
Though I met them later on in the semester, they instantly welcomed me with heartfelt hugs, three kisses on the cheek, Lebanese style, and the most delicious food.
In their warm homes I felt at ease, and safe, as if I had known them for years. This is even though the last time I saw them was more than 15 years ago.
I was truly taken aback by the amount of love that surrounded me, and for that I am thankful I picked Lebanon and truly owe my happiest memories to my family.
The second aspect of my experience I truly cherished was adventure.
Being a suburban Cairene, I never really leave my enclosed community but was thrown into adventure the second I arrived in Lebanon.
The University’s international program organized almost weekly trips around the entire country, with activities ranging from sight-seeing, marathons, and simply outings.
I crossed off so many things from my bucket list in just a few months here, from swimming in a waterfall, to visiting the ancient ruins of Baalbeck, seeing Palestine, and simply living abroad for five months – that itself was an adventure to say the least.
With rocky and green mountains, pink sunsets, the smell of the sea by the waterfront, and the lit hills at night, Lebanon truly is a beauty.
My eyes captured the most beautiful views and my nose smelled more scents than I can count; from the smell of the earth after rain, mist from the pine trees, the kishik manakeesh, and even the discarded garbage in Hamra.
I am more so thankful for the few friends that accompanied in on such adventures, and helped create adventures of our own.
From walking across East to West Beirut, cozy lunches and exciting nights, I am grateful this experience introduced me to a mass of people and left me with a couple of ones now dear to my heart.
In total this experience has magnified my love for my home, for Egypt and most of all for my family.
Distance does make the heart grow fonder, and so I am thankful the semester is finally over and that I made it out, most importantly, in one whole, physically and emotionally.