When Your Friends Live Abroad


Maggie Mckillop poses for a picture with her former German exchange student Vincent DeMarti.

Most people get to see their best friend every day, calling them when they are upset or hugging them when it’s just one of those days. But not everyone has that privilege. Some have to travel across the Atlantic ocean to get that hug.

Norah Rast, Maggie Mckillop and Sara Abrams are no stranger to this phenomenon.

Norah Rast and Vanessa Brutschin sport Michigan gear while spending time together in northern Michigan this past summer.

Norah Rast, a Pioneer High School junior, has spent a large portion of her life in Germany. Her father grew up in Germany and her mother, a history professor at University of Michigan, has had different opportunities to go for a year and live in Freiburg, Germany. The first time Rast spent a year there was when she was four. She went again when she was in second grade and ninth grade.

The year that had the biggest impact on her–in terms of long lasting friendships–was her ninth grade year.  She has been friends with Vanessa Brutschin ever since.  “I would consider her the person of my friends that I’m most closely connected to,” said Rast.

“It’s hard sometimes because she isn’t there in the moment when I want to talk to her,” said Rast. “You miss out on the little things, just like the everyday things that are just stupid you just want to tell someone.”

Rast goes back to Germany every summer, and Brutschin spent two and a half weeks in the United States during the summer of 2011 and has plans to return this summer. “It’s nice [when she visits] because she can meet my other friends and [see] what my life here is.”

Rast and Brutschin send each other long Facebook messages during the week. They speak on the phone the almost every weekend. “We’re pretty good at being communicative,” she said. “We’re just like normal best friends,” said Rast.

Although Rast has found it hard she has managed to figure out ways that make long distance friendships last. “Try to stay in touch even when it’s difficult. Tell them about the little things happening in your life, not just the big ones. Try to save up the money and visit them or have them visit you, it really makes all the difference!”

Maggie Mckillop poses for a picture with her former German exchange student, Vincent DeMarti, on one of his recent visits to the United States.

When CHS Senior Maggie Mckillop first went Germany she fell in love with it. She went to visit her exchange student there, but she came back with many friends.“You get a different perspective when you talk to them about things that are going on in the world. They grew up in a different place where people see things differently, and so talking about that with them is interesting,” said Mckillop about her friends in Germany.

Mckillop says that it’s not hard to stay in touch with people because of Facebook, Skype and email.

Despite being able to contact with people, “It’s hard in the sense that you don’t see them all the time and so you miss them,” she said.

Fortunately Mckililop and her foreign friends will not be apart for much longer. She is moving to  Germany in September to study at the technical university in Dresden.

Sara Abrams and Chaeyoon Kim spend time together when Kim visited Florida.

Throughout Sara Abrams’s schooling, she has become friends with people her in classes from other countries. In elementary school, she became friends with Simona Hohl from Switzerland and Chaeyoon Kim from Korea. More recently she met Lena Knaebe, who was a German exchange student at CHS during the 2010-2011 school year.

Over the years she has been able to visit Switzerland and her friend from Korea has visited several times. Abrams is hoping to visit Germany as soon as possible.

For Abrams, it can be hard to stay in touch with her friends that live in other countries. When Abrams did not have a Facebook she would email all of them, the emails would be more personal. “Now that we have Facebook I just see their stuff and it gives me less of a reason to just talk to them,” she said.

Even though it can be hard, Abrams enjoys having friends that live in other countries. She likes it because she won’t be judged; they see the real her.  “They’re awesome…When I talk to them they help me practice other languages which is cool. I also hear about how their parents treat them differently in different cultures and stuff. It’s pretty cool,” said  Abrams.

Journalist Kate Summers with a group of her friends from Northern Ireland

Having friends that live half away around the world can be difficult. You can’t text that person when you’re down, you have to deal with time differences and  language barriers. They miss the little things. However, the friendship you have in other countries are your most cherished ones, because when you’re lying in bed at night,  just thinking it’s nice to know that someone across an ocean is waking up and thinking about you too.

Photos courtesy of Sara Abrams, Maggie Mckillop and Norah Rast.