August 19, 2022, 13h 

The door clicks shut. The weight of solitude settles in. 

Echoes of farewell linger in the void of my room as I watch my parents’ car fade into the distance from the window. A quiet emptiness settles, overwhelming and excruciating. 

“Wow, I’m finally alone.” 

Alone. A single word weighted with the enormity of my new reality in a foreign land. I sit down on the floor, the bed feeling all too unfamiliar. Phone in hand, I stare at the screen with my parents’ number glaring back at me. My fingers hover over the call button yet I cannot bring myself to press it. I know I won’t be able to stifle the sob threatening to escape. 

I call a different number, feeling rushed and impatient as the line rings more than once. A familiar voice breaks the silence with a “Hey,” opening the floodgates. Tears stream down my cheeks, the weight of my emotions too heavy to bear alone. I let go of the breath I’ve been holding, the hand covering my mouth falling away as I surrender to the tidal wave of grief that crashes over me. 

August 19, 2022, 19h 

I stare ahead at the lights dancing over the cathedral, a feeble attempt to distract myself from the weight of my thoughts, drowned out by the music. Suddenly, someone approaches, breaking through the silence with a simple “Hi, I noticed your bracelet!” I look down at my integration bracelet, look back up, smile, and reply “Hi!” 

I don’t know why, yet I feel the need to overshare. Say more. I quickly blurt out, “My parents left tonight.” She smiles as she says, “Mine too.”

In the shared moment of understanding, amidst the dazzling lights of the cathedral, a connection is forged, a silent acknowledgment of shared pain and loneliness. 

August 21, 2022, 12h

The girl from the other day suggested we meet up for lunch. I remember stifling my excitement only to reply with “Sure, sounds good,” to not seem overly eager. She brings a friend who fills the room with seemingly easy confidence. Her infectious energy fascinates me, yet beneath it lies a twinge of unease. They seem so close. 

Will this new figure pull away the first person I truly connected with, leaving me once again adrift in a sea of unfamiliar faces? 

August 22, 2022, 11h 

Yesterday’s new girl, the friend I was fretting over, actually turned out to be a whirlwind of energy. We navigated the endless welcome events, our minds bored but our spirits alight with shared amusement. It felt as if we’d known each other for years, our laughs genuine, our connection effortless. 

As the day drew to a close, she mentioned getting coffee sometime, a simple invitation carrying the weight of possibility – the possibility of a newfound friendship. Integration week is full of empty promises, I remind myself in an effort to lower my expectations and not be disappointed later. 

Today, I stare down at my phone: “Want to grab coffee?” As I read the words, a smile blossoms on my lips, a silent affirmation of the connection we’ve forged in the midst of empty promises. 

September 11, 2022

In the whirlwind of integration week, our trio becomes inseparable, bound together by shared laughter and late-night talks. We carve out a space in my room, the once solitary haven now transformed into a bustling hub of friendship. 

Today, we lay in my room, consumed by the daunting task ahead: the economics problem set. Books and laptops litter the floor. We rack our brains yet no answers are to be found. 

In a moment of desperation, someone suggests reaching out to a girl in our building — a stranger I had vaguely heard about from my friends (yes, my friends). She agreed to help and a few minutes later, a knock was at our door. 

“I was struggling with the problem set too,” she laughs. With a sense of shared purpose, she joins us on the floor, her presence a welcome addition to our makeshift family. 

As the night wears on, a sense of camaraderie takes hold, binding us together. We vow to stay in that room until we crack the problem set, our determination matched only by our exhaustion. 

And at that moment, as we huddle together amidst the scattered remnants of our academic endeavors, something shifts. We are no longer strangers. In each other’s presence, we find solace and a sense of belonging – a home that transcends the walls of my studio apartment. 

6th May 2023, 20h 

Sitting atop the mountain overlooking Athens, bathed in the golden glow of the setting sun, we sit in awe. Here we are. The girl from the cathedral, the girl who invited me for coffee, the girl who tried to save my economics problem set – on a trip together. It feels surreal – how these encounters have blossomed into the deepest of friendships. 

As we watch the sun dip below the horizon, painting the sky in hues of orange, we share stories of our nerves and anxiety from that first week. In the quiet of the evening, amidst the gentle rustle of trees in the breeze, we find solace in our shared vulnerabilities, realizing we were all treading the same path. 

In this moment of reflection, I’m overcome with gratitude for the ties that bind us, weaving a tapestry of friendship that stretches across lifetimes, across oceans, anchoring us to each other.

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