Leaving Friends while Traveling Abroad

Listen to Izzy, one of our past student ambassadors, who is studying in the Maastricht Science Program:

Hello again from the Netherlands! I am going to talk about my experience with leaving friends behind when I moved from Milwaukee, Wisconsin to Maastricht in the Netherlands. Specifically, I am going to tell you about how I felt leaving my friends, being unable to see them for 2 years, and my experience finally returning to, and seeing them after those 2 years.


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As many students studying outside the US near their departure date, it is quite common to feel anxious and worried. I can personally relate to these feelings because, I promise you, I felt exactly the same way! The day I left, and I looked at my room one last time I could feel the tears welling up. Not because I was sad or regretting leaving, but because I was nervous. I had lived all that time in this one house, in my room; it was familiar and home to me.

As I said my goodbye to my friends one final time, I again felt those tears welling up in my eyes. I was obviously going to miss them greatly, but I also knew I would see them again. I think that was the hardest part, honestly, of saying goodbye to friends and family. I do miss Milwaukee, the city in which I lived before moving to the Netherlands, but there are new distractions and new places to see where I am now, but I think for most people it is the people you  leave behind you miss the most.

Reading this far you might think it’s a bit doom and gloom, but there’s good news! We live in the time of technology. We can communicate non-stop with others. And that’s how I have kept my friendships alive for these past 2 years.

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For the most part, I was able to keep in touch over Snapchat and Instagram, by texting, and keeping up to date by watching people’s stories. I also tried to call my friends whenever I could. Unfortunately for me and my friends, we pretty much sucked at communicating via the phone even when we were at home, three blocks away from each other. Therefore, it took a bit of time to find time, but that varies per person.

If you put in the effort, you will not lose your true friends, you guys will be in it for the long run:) I do say “true friends” because obviously it is impossible to stay in touch with everyone from high school. I personally became closer with my ‘best friends’ because we both had to make more of an effort to stay in contact, so our time together was more appreciated.

Unfortunately, as my first year came to an end, and summer neared, it became apparent to me that the situation occurring at the time with COVID would make returning to the US extremely difficult. This was a big blow for me. Thankfully my family had moved back to Europe before the COVID crisis began, so I could see my family during that summer, however I was not able to see my friends from back home.

Honestly it was hard for me, but since travel was still possible within European countries, I was able to distract myself with small trips with my new friends I had made at Maastricht University.

Fast forward another year, and thankfully COVID chilled out enough for me to finally be able to return to Milwaukee to see my friends! My trip back was amazing, I spent the month couchsurfing at my closest friends’ house in the student area of Milwaukee. I was able to reconnect with more than 8 of my close friends from high school, and even met up with people I hadn’t talked to at all during my 2 years away.

When I arrived and first saw my friends it honestly felt like no time had passed at all. We began to update each other on everything that had happened in the past months and planned what we wanted to do while I was back. I was able to revisit my old neighborhood, all my old hangout and food spots, as well as go camping, to the Six Flags Great America theme park, sports games (Go Bucks!), and even go camping.

Once my trip came to an end, it was once again time for goodbyes. This time around however they were not as hard. I didn’t have that fear of losing them because I knew we would stay in touch, and would see each other next summer. In addition, I knew I was coming back to Maastricht, to my new friends, and my more recent home.

Overall, I just want to hopefully calm some of the nerves about first leaving home for university abroad. I know it is hard, and you might be scared, but from reading this I hope you can see that leaving friends behind shouldn’t scare you too much. It will be a big change, but new experiences and people will come and fill your time while away from home! When you can visit home again, things will fall back into place.


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