By Caroline Mitchell |

It’s a small world after all.

Hungary is 5,828 miles away from Texas.

Before travelling to Budapest for study abroad, I was most nervous about feeling alone and not being surrounded by people who fully know meNever having traveled to Europe left me fearful of the unknowns and questioning how I would be able to feel at home in a new country for an entire month. 

I desire human connections and seek commonalities among those surrounding me.  While traveling across the Atlantic, I quickly realized my 15 classmates and I were automatically connected because we come from the same university and speak the same language.

I never imagined I would make many connections past my classmates while we are 5,828 miles away from familiarity. 

One night a group of us met three girls from the University of Texas at a bus stop.  The girls heard us speaking English and enthusiastically started talking to us.  They said they were relieved to meet us because they were visiting Budapest for a weekend and were feeling uneasy and unsure about the city.  After talking to the girls for a few minutes, I learned we had a few mutual friends.  I lived in Lusaka, Zambia, last summer with three girls who were high school friends of these Texas girls.  We were all excited to make this connection, and I felt a new sense of peace and excitement toward meeting strangers.  Even better, we were able to help the visiting Texas girls have peace of mind about exploring Budapest. 

The same night I met these girls at the bus stop, I met a British guy who goes to school in East Tennessee, the region where I grew up.  I was happy to connect with somebody who understood what I meant when I said, “I miss the mountains.” 

Another member of our group had a similar small world experience.  My classmate Sion Firew is Ethiopian.  She has not experienced much diversity in Budapest and has been singled out by many locals because of her skin color.  As we were walking down the street one day, a guy greeted her automatically with a phrase in Amharic, an Ethiopian language.  Before even talking to one another, Sion and this guy knew each other were Ethiopian. 

“Being able to see someone that I knew has the same culture and language as me was so refreshing. I didn’t have to ask or wonder whether or not he was Ethiopian, I just saw him and knew,” Sion said.  “It definitely made me feel more welcome into this city where I stand out.” 

Meeting strangers on this trip makes the world feel a lot smaller and I realize we are all connected more than we thinkThese connections can make traveling feel a little less lonely and little more exciting.  We have the opportunity to meet people we may have never met otherwise, even if we are almost 6,000 miles away from home.   

“Though the mountains divide 

And the oceans are wide 

It’s a small world after all.”