Picture this: you were always on the fence about studying abroad, but you decided to venture out of your comfort zone because five of your best friends — the girl group who you've been close with for a year and a half — were going and said it would be the "best experience ever." You get to London and, despite some nerves that come with moving across the globe, things are going pretty great.
Until they betray you one month into the four-month semester abroad.
Let me start off by saying this isn't the most pleasant experience to share. But I choose to do so because I find it empowering to share my story of resilience, and hope it empowers others who have experienced something similar. It's also a good cautionary tale for anyone who has some reservations about their friends.
Five out of the six girls (including myself) went to the Czech Republic for a weekend trip. Living with and really depending on each other in a tight-knit group will pose challenges in even the best of friend groups. While there were some hiccups on this trip (some of which I was not involved in at all), it was overall a good weekend.
Once the five of us returned from Prague, I willingly sat down with them for what I was made to believe would be a roommate "clearing of the air." During the next half hour, each one literally took their turn berating me. This was extremely difficult for me given the fact that I was easily able to refute their "reasons" for doing so.
It was a disturbing experience to be in a situation where truth and logic had absolutely no weight.
They told me that it "slowed the group down" when I would stop to sample some of the local street food. They also said I was walking a bit slow because I wore heeled boots (which, by the way, two of the others also wore). Now that I think of it, it actually makes me laugh to think these were my biggest sins.
At the conclusion of this boxing session, I asked them what was going to happen for the group trip to Amsterdam that would be taking place in a week and a half. Now... you're going to have to hold onto your phones extra tight because you might just drop it when you hear the response to this.
The one who I thought I was closest to actually told me, "Oh, that's OK. We already found someone to take your spot."
So, on top of being punched in the gut four times that night, I also lost around $200 worth of travel funds because they never even offered to reimburse me.
I'm honestly happy I didn't go on that trip, though. I found out about their original plan from my direct roommate (who did not go to Prague and had nothing to do with what the other four girls were cultivating). This plan was designed by the girl for whom this trip was intended for (to celebrate her birthday) and involved "letting Teylor come with us if she insisted" and then "leaving her in the Airbnb to fend for herself."
So those are the type of girls I put my faith in — girls who would abandon another young female in a foreign country.
You're probably thinking this was the worst part, but it gets better. I was supposed to be living with some of them in a dorm in our senior year. Little did I know, they found someone else to take my spot in the apartment. They told this to my direct roommate, who then told me. To this day I'm still waiting for them to inform me that I was kicked out.
It really begs the question, "Who does that?" Who is heartless enough to purposely wait until someone is isolated from their family, 3,396 miles away from home, experiencing homesickness (which I told them about a week prior to Prague), and battling an anxiety and eating disorder?
Seriously, can someone tell me what kind of a person can do this to another human being while they are at their most vulnerable?
This whole experience has made me take a step back and evaluate myself and how I contributed to what became an incredibly bizarre and cruel situation. I can honestly say that there really was nothing I did that they themselves, on any given day, don't do.
They told me I brought drama, which is pretty ironic given the fact that the friend group was originally founded sophomore year on a hotbed of insane drama that had absolutely nothing to do with me, as I was not even on campus that weekend. Is there anyone reading this that has not, at some point, teetered on the dramatic? I think we all have. I still cannot reconcile in my mind that what they did to me was anything I remotely deserved.
On top of knowing to not wear heels when walking around a city filled with cobblestone streets, I have also learned to not stop at street pastry carts as much. But I still think that friends of someone battling an eating disorder would be more than happy to indulge their friend in trying new foods (which they were very aware was at the root of my eating disorder).
I'm sure that if someone had asked them why they did what they did, they can give reasons.
Whether those reasons are based on the truth or a fallacy will never be a question in my mind; I have always been my toughest critic, and lying to myself has never been my style. Either way, I can assure you that even they know there is nothing I did that warranted their cruel actions toward me.
I was hesitant to write this article. When this was actually happening to me in London, I was humiliated and embarrassed. What kind of a person am I? I must be an awful human being for this to happen to me. But after a good cry and clearing my head, it became crystal clear that they are the ones who humiliated themselves and they should be embarrassed by their actions.
Self-quarantining because of the coronavirus (COVID-19), which is what actually ended my study abroad experience, has given me a lot of time to think. One of my big takeaways is: when people show you who they are, believe them. Leading up to this trip, I had little glimpses into who these girls really were, but I didn't want to believe it. After all, how can I knowingly be friends with people who are capable of the things they did?
But in the end, I thank them for showing me how strong and resilient I am.
My advice for anyone planning on studying abroad is to make sure you have a lot of friendly faces you can socialize with and reach out to. Although you may be traveling with a friend group, it's always good to have connections with a variety of people outside of that group. And for those people who were there for me in England when I needed it: I appreciate and thank you from the bottom of my heart.
At the end of the day, everybody has to live with what they've done. I, for one, am not clouded with any guilt when my head touches my pillow at night.
Sunset in LisboaEmma Gallagher
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