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First awkward moment to friendship
July 22, 2021 23:11

This story of friendship connects Gizem from YFU Turkey and Cai Yi from YFU China who met during their exchange in the United States

The best thing that could happen during my entire exchange year was finding good friends. Before my exchange, I could never imagine how important they were going to be in my life. Usually, everyone tends to think that after a year later, you’ll never be in touch with the friends that you made during your exchange year but it is completely wrong! Even after 10 years, me and my exchange friend Cai Yi (Shelly for me 😊) are still regularly exchanging messages, randomly telling things that we are going through and having video calls with Cai Yi.

When I first arrived in Michigan around August 2012, I was trying to get to know my host family better and get used to my new home, new room. Through the YFU Network, my host mom and Shelly’s host mom knew each other and arranged a meeting in downtown Plymouth for us. When the meeting day arrived, I clearly remember that I was extremely excited to meet someone foreign in a foreign country!

When I went into Panera Bread (which became our favorite place to eat), my eyes were looking for Shelly and I tried to recognize her from the picture that my host mom showed me. Then suddenly, I saw her and since I was so excited I gave her a huge hug (as it is something that we do in our culture when we meet with someone) and squeezing her very tight. However, something was clearly wrong because I was hugging and she was not hugging me back and did not even react to me. Then I backed up and looked at her, she was like “Oh hi” with a quite neutral tone and face. I remember that I felt quite awkward and apologized to her several times. It was perhaps my first cultural shock 😊

However, in a couple of hours, we were laughing and strolling around downtown, trying to explore places. That first awkward moment took us to 10 years of friendship! We were unfortunately not in the same school but we somehow managed to hang out frequently! That 10 years of friendship includes a lot of sleepovers, camping, movies, crying, laughing, costume parties, community service, YFU orientations, the YFU East Coast trip in the US, ice-skating, baseball and hockey games, singing Empire State of Mind like crazy in New York, buying VIP tickets to be able to ride all the roller coasters at Cedar Point, many delicious foods, and then many text exchanges, showing each other around on our respective university campuses as well as through our houses over facetime, again with a lot of laughing and sometimes crying when sharing sad moments…

Even though we were not able to meet physically since 2013, we always have written letters to each other and sent them with little gifts. I am very grateful and lucky to have her in my life thanks to YFU!”


Author: Gizem Ece Tığlıoğlu, YFU Turkey
An Exchange student who went to the United States in 2012/13 and created life-long friendships through the YFU.


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