I’ve mentioned in numerous previous posts about the group here in Northern Ireland, and how they’re some of the best people I’ve met since coming to college. But I realize that these good relationships didn’t just happen. It was a mix of effort and events that made it possible, so here I present the top 4 ways to bond with others while abroad!
Step #1: Be intentional and open. I’m the kind of person who takes a while to get to know people and open up, so I really appreciate all the people who took the time during the first month to get to know me, and for inviting me to join in on different activities with other people who, like me, take a little longer to warm up to larger groups. When I polled the group for what they thought really helped us bond, one of the top things that came up was how we kept our large dining table pushed together instead of breaking off into smaller tables, and how the shared conversation really did help us to feel like a family pretty early on.
Step #2: Work together! Aside from sharing general chores and the same classes, I remember the first time we all really worked together being when Katie and Sarah B. asked the rest of us if we would be willing to do a video for Mock Rock. Everyone was so excited to help and have fun and, for me, that was our first real group bonding experience during the first month in Belfast.
Step #3: Hang out with people. Personally, I tend to closet myself in my room during the semester, or at least hang out with the same small group of friends. But that’s not really an option here, and I’m really glad for that. A lot of things contributed to getting to know people, but some things that were really fun were our worship nights that Emma and Kara always arranged and played music for, getting to play chess at least every other day (I have to thank all the people who humor me when I keep bugging them to play!) and cards the rest of the time, going on our two brief breaks and seeing what adventures await, and our “family times” on Mondays where we eat delicious dessert and hear people’s stories.
Step #4: Have fun! Now, this one sounds maybe the most cliché, but to my mind it’s also the most important. Being able to laugh with each other, develop group jokes, and go out and have fun together makes life a hundred times better. I think my favorite example of this happened just last night: Katie and Anna decided that it would be fun to create a “murder mystery” dinner party, and they created an original murder mystery set in 1920’s New York. This had been something I was especially looking forward to, and I really have to thank the two of them for all of their work–putting this on during our finals week was quite the commitment! Everyone got a character and a description full of scandal and secrets, and we all set down to our fancy pasta dinner in the best costumes we could manage (some of which were quite impressive!), trying to derive secrets from each other and solve the case in our best Bronx, Brooklyn, and Manhattan accents (with differing levels of success) in only an hour. We ended up catching the murderer, and it was quite the drama! It was one of the best evenings I’ve had here in Northern Ireland, and it just goes to show you what a determined theater nerd and a crazy English major can do!
And there have been select moments that we all remember as key turning points for the group: singing the doxology at a waterfall Mindi Stevenson took us to our very first week, watching movies that created our first group jokes, and eating fish and chips together and sliding ketchup bottles and sides across the slick table. I know that coming to Northern Ireland would have been a great trip regardless, but I really mean it when I say these people have made the trip wonderful. To every one of my fourteen fantastic fellow team members, our dependable and patient director John, and the wonderful ninja-cook Cori:
May the road rise up to meet you.
May the wind be always at your back.
May the sun shine warm upon your face;
the rains (down in: Ireland) fall soft upon your fields
and until we meet again,
may God hold you in the palm of His hand.