Reality and Fiction

They make a lot of medical dramas for tv these days. Well, not just these days, but since forever, actually. I remember watching ER when I was a child, and then watching Grey’s Anatomy. They make a lot of series about working as a doctor or being an intern, but I’ve yet to see a TV show about studying medicine, since it’s a lot more relevant to me at the moment. The shows they make, they’re not really that realistic. I’d like to see something actually relatable.

Maybe I feel like this because I’m usually so busy with premed-school that I have a really hard time making new friends, and being an exchange student only makes it harder. I often feel lonely in my dorm, even when my roommate is in. She’s nice, but we don’t have anything in common other than school. Plus, I don’t think she’s that academically inclined, or cares about getting good grades or learning anything. She often goes partying and comes home after midnight smelling like alcohol, I don’t know how she even got passing grades, but I’m not here to judge. It’s just that I have a lot more at stake.

Keeping in touch with my friends and family is really helpful. They give me strength and remind me of my goal and what I’m doing here. I want to have a bright future, so what if I have a hard time fitting in. My older sister often says that there must be someone who feels just as lonely and lost as I do, we just need to find each other. If more people were more open about feeling lonely, the world would be a better place.

Loneliness is a normal part of life. I’m learning to accept it. It won’t always be like this, I know. At first I tried to distract myself by being busy and studying harder, but I realized that this wasn’t the solution, I became overworked and overwhelmed. It’s like when you have to prevent a water heater from overheating proof: https://tanklesscenter.net/prevent-overheating – it will get damaged if you don’t do something. Similarly, I felt ‘overheated’ from all my excessive efforts, which, to be honest, weren’t necessary, I was doing just fine before.

I was thinking about trying to get some hobbies or join some clubs, and maybe meet some people that way, through shared interests. When I was in high school I liked dancing, so maybe I should find a dancing studio? I don’t know. We’ll see!


Good News!

It is tough to be a premed student. All your time is eaten away by your studies. It is a real commitment to become a doctor. Years and years of your life must be devoted to your career. Knowing this, I try to have as much fun as I can in college which means attending a party or two now and them. Since I am from a foreign country, I had to get used to the customs in America when it comes to socializing. I am not that comfortable with going out on my own unescorted. It is perfectly acceptable, of course, but it took a while for me to accept it. In Beirut, from where I come, you do not venture out, even to a relative’s house, without an escort. I don’t want to mention this to my college friends who might find it unliberating and odd. As a result, emotionally I have a difficult time. I don’t want to explain myself.

Because of my traditional upbringing, it is a major step forward for me to go to a party on my own. I am not making a judgment about American ways. I am simply pointing out some cultural differences. Since I don’t reject the local way of life, I am forcing myself to try something new. It is not an issue of personal safety as you might think but of what is acceptable for young women.

I attended a very nice party recently without any problems. I recognized a few people from school and it was easy to strike up a conversation. There was not rampant drinking or misbehavior of any sort. I know better than to go to that sort of event. I felt at home in that I dressed like the other American girls in casual clothing. I chose a long sleeve embellished top and jeans—not the torn kind. I don’t go that far, maybe another time. I always believed that parties were special dress up occasions. Not in the U.S. Since the attire is so simple, you resort to makeup to denote an evening soiree, as I call it. The women in my country love eyeliner and mascara. I went all out and used a special mascara for eyelash extensions to create Eyelashes to Die For. While false, they look so real and they really make you look different. They line the upper lid and create more definition and depth. I am told that they make me look exotic. I get this all the time. I consider it a compliment.

America seems obsessed with makeup. Witness the dozens of mascara ads that run constantly on TV. It says something about American culture, in this regard it is not that different from Beirut. Women worldwide want to look glamourous and attractive. If it takes a few coats of mascara and even false eyelashes, then so be it. It is fun to do and there are so many choices of style from short and thick to long and spidery. Mascara adds volume—the finishing touch.


Dorm Invasion

Living communally in a dorm is fun. It is a surefire way to make new friends when you are a foreign student. People approach you and want to know where you are from and how you made the decision to come to this campus. They want to hear your stories, your interests, your hobbies, and your family background. You, of course, want to hear all about them. You spend hours and hours together in each other’s rooms covering ample territory. I can’t say enough good things about this way of life to initiate your American experience. You have meals together in the cafeteria and also go out once in a while for a treat. You are never really alone. This is my recommended answer to loneliness for anyone new in a country before friendships have been formed.

Things accelerate when you spend a lot of time together. You learn new things and have so many social opportunities. Speaking of social things, we had an all dorm party recently complete with tons of food. Almost every resident brought something. As a result, in spite of our healthy student appetites, we had a lot left over. After the party, there wasn’t enough clean up as people were pretty tired. I normally could forgive this oversight, but the problem was a day later, I found mice scurrying across my dorm room floor. Yikes. Yes, I learned this American expression suitable for the small furry creatures. I hated the idea of lack of cleanliness, and by now the old food was long gone; but the mice stayed. I had to find a humane mouse trap to catch them without making minced meat out of the critters. I wanted something that would bait them with a bit of food, trap them in a box so I could release them outdoors. You can buy these humane traps at any hardware store or make your own with instructions online. Other people seem to share my interest in not beheading anything that moves. The old-fashioned spring trap seems so antiquated now. Who wants to set a trap and the next morning find a struggling mouse begging for mercy.

I was able to acquire two humane traps recommended by the salesman at the hardware store. He promised me to direct kills. It worked. I was able to secure two mice in a box with a trap door. I made a ritual out of letting them go in the nearby park. I didn’t want to release them too close to the dorm in case they should find their way back. Seriously. They aren’t dogs. But maybe they do have a sense of scent. I didn’t want to see their cute little faces even one time more.


Another Renovation Project

Only the lonely know how important it is to make friends when you are fairly new in town and started out without knowing another human soul. Making friends isn’t easy unless you know the ropes. You have to find some common ground. It could be a hobby, a club or organization, taking a class at the local community college, or joining a gym. Sometimes it takes more than one endeavor. Once you make contact, the rest can follow into place. Make sure you show up at least twice. One time and you are an oddity, twice or more and you have entered the friendship stream.

I went the volunteer route. There are so many fine groups with good causes to join and they welcome a fellow traveler. Once a member, there is plenty to do if you are serious about giving of your time. Over the long haul, you will find it a source of many new friends. Recently, I was personally enriched by joining forces with a local charity in my neighborhood. I had heard about it through the grapevine. Fundraising is not my forte, but I liked what I heard. The organization was going to renovate a foreclosed property to make it more energy efficient in order to sell it at a profit. The proceeds would go to the charity first and foremost. We would recoup some of our expenses first.

Renovation can take many turns. You can be ecologically minded if you replace dripping faucets and old kitchen appliances like the stove and refrigerator that eat up utilities. Since our project was a charitable one, we found some neighborhood vendors willing to donate the new appliances. They made sure to include energy efficient ones. They also helped out with the faucets in the kitchen and bathroom. Another vendor helped us make good progress with an energy saver toilet: two to be specific for the two bathrooms. This is a major step in the right direction. Finally, we tackled the fireplace. Most of the old ones don’t even know the meaning of the words “energy efficient.” We found a kind vendor who makes amazing fireplace inserts so we can update this area of concern. So this was not your usual run of the mill renovation project. Because it was for charity and the support we had garnered, we got a lot of media publicity. We had articles on the house with photos in the local paper. It got the public’s attention. We started to get more random donations. It was like manna from heaven. While we had hoped to make some profit on the house, getting new subscribers to our cause was a step in the right direction for our future. It is the man in the street that sustains charities for the most part. We could take on other renovation projects, but they are a lot of work and depend on the kindness of strangers as they say. Meanwhile, I have good times ahead with my new friends.


Adjustment Period

When you relocate from a foreign country, there is an ample adjustment period. For each individual, the time element is different. You have to acclimate as they say. Everyone does it in their own way on their own time. It takes its toll on your body since it is a period of stress that can affect your hair, skink, and nails. The acclimating has to happen on so many levels from housing to customs to food. It can be overwhelming at first. Everything is different from what you are used to. It takes time and it all seems terribly foreign and even alien. Just dealing with finding a living space and understanding what a rental lease is all about is a chore. It makes you feel lonely and isolated until you feel that you are taking root into your new way of life. When things start to turn for the better, you rejoice.

I had a particular problem with fatty and rich American food at first. It is not that I don’t like it, it is tasty in its own way, but it didn’t agree with me in the beginning. I had breakouts on a regular basis. It had a negative effect on my body overall. I had to avoid eating out with friends so I resorted to having people over. My skin, hair, and nails didn’t look their best. I needed to find a vitamin supplement to take care of my appearance. My hair was looking a bit thin, my skin had a pallor, and my nails were brittle and constantly breaking. One remedy that is highly touted is to drink gelatin. You buy it in packets and mix it with water or you can put it in juice. It isn’t the tastiest brew, but it has protein in it to strengthen all the weak aspects of your body surfaces—most particularly the nails. You can also take other supplements to help you get healthy nails and boost what the gelatin is hopefully doing for you. Mom always said beauty comes from within, and boy was she right. Bright eyes, dewy skin, healthy hair-it all starts at the cellular level. I found an expert blend of biotin, borage oil and powerful antioxidants online that help you look your best, 24-7. I like taking the systemic approach to solve health problems. You can put lotions and potions on your hair, skin, and nails with little visible difference. It is a matter of what you ingest.

Over time, I became adjusted to the food, and together with my self-induced treatments, I turned the corner on body health. I was beginning to feel myself again and looking the way I wanted. When you look your best, you feel your best and you present a better demeanor to the world. It makes for an easier time making new friends when you have self-confidence. I shared my beauty secrets with some new acquaintances and they applauded my take-charge efforts. We had fun exchanging more ideas to keep ourselves looking good.


Letter from Home

When you are a foreign student so far away from home that you are constantly lonely, you relish each and every letter that comes your way from family or friends. These days, letters are a rarity indeed. They are from a bygone era when people actually had pens. Ha ha! Most of the time I am pretty preoccupied and living in a communal dorm, I have people to be with, especially for meals. Only the lonely know what it is like to eat alone. We share stories of our lives, or immediate families, and the trivia of human existence, but it makes me so homesick that I can barely stand it. I sit and wait sometimes for days and days for that special letter from home. I take in every word with glee. No matter how mundane the account of what I already know is taking place, I linger over the letter and can barely lay it down. It is odd to get an actual piece of mail you can read over and over again. Not an email which is so impersonal. Maybe because they are so short and not so sweet. When it comes to my parents, they know email won’t express their emotions in the way that a paper letter can. They take the time to craft a real message, which I sincerely appreciate. I am glad to hear that everyone is well and they recount how and why, even the family dog.

Now what about dad? They tell me he got a new power washer to take care of the grimy wheels of the family car and he can’t stop talking about it. It has this length of hose, it has that kind of spray nozzle. It is adjustable and easy to move around. And so on. It is an electric system that he plugs right into the outlet in the garage. I get every little detail. I think they are bored hearing about it so why tell me. I think to make the point. I will have to mention it in my letter back to them. I will have to admire his foresight in getting something that will make him more useful around the house and yard. Okay, dad, you are a really practical man I will say. Now what else can you do with this gadget? How about cleaning the garden walkways, the oily garage floor, the back walls of the house where that old vine was removed and it left traces of dirt and dead leaves. I am sure the dog house could use a real good dousing. You almost wish you would take a power washer into the house, but no; they are not designed for interior chores. He will have to do those on his own with manual power so to speak. There is nothing like a pair of hands to clean just about anything. They dust, they vacuum, they mop the floor, they wax the wood, and they wash dishes. Listen up, dad.


Why is it Harder to Make Friends as an Adult?

Why is it Harder to Make Friends as an Adult

As a kid, I found it so easy to make friends. It didn’t matter if the kids who lived next door were a few years older or younger, proximity made you friends. I had a new best friend in my class every year. Our family backgrounds did not make any difference.

But now things are so different. Some of my friends are at university, some are getting married, some are working full time. We are all over the place and are in touch through email and text more than in person visits. I really miss that here. I have classmates, but we don’t socialize during class or we would not hear the lectures. There are study groups but we really do usually study. The workload here can be a lot and does it help to talk it out with classmates. I have asked others about themselves and most people are so busy with classes, jobs, and relationships they do not even have time for more friends.

I understand, I am busy too, but I do wish that I had friends to go to a movie with every once in awhile. Or coffee. Anything social would be fine, really. I don’t live in the dorms with the undergrads, I am on a special floor with other exchange students. This is supposed to foster community but I am the only one here from Beirut and the others mostly speak their home language together.

That means the two things I relied on as a child to make friends, proximity and school, no longer apply. These old standbys don’t work anymore. There is an elementary school near here that has what is called a buddy bench on the playground. You sit there when you are lonely and it lets other people know you are looking for a friend. I wish grownups had that too. It would make life more interesting, wouldn’t it? I told someone about this idea in my sociology class and she said, of course, grownups have a buddy bench. It’s just known as last call at the bar. I laughed along with her but it was not quite what I meant.

But I do think there are more people out there like me, and I am going to find them! Maybe my buddy bench isn’t really a bench. Maybe my buddy bench is actually the internet. This blog, for example, and other sites, too. Maybe this is the kind of place that only the lonely will find each other.


Date Ideas

I have been on quite a few dates since my arrival here. It’s not so much that I am looking for someone to marry but because there are so many dating sites. It is a logical way to meet people. I have a routine down now that I thought you might benefit or get ideas from. Here it is, the dating world according to Mia!

So for a first date, I would recommend going to a coffee shop. I don’t drink coffee but there’s always a lot of herbal tea there for those of us who abstain from caffeine. I like it because it’s casual; you can have a conversation and you don’t have to be there that long if the chemistry isn’t there or you are just not clicking. I have spent anywhere from like 20 minutes to an hour and a half talking to someone in a coffee shop, and can gather a lot of information about a person this way. Then I kind of know where I want to go from there.

For a second date, I like to do something a little bit more active. Sometimes we will go bowling or to karaoke or something. It is very revealing to see how people react when they’re competing. I like to see if they can have a good time or if they’re the type of person that needs to win at any cost; I like to know that kind of stuffupfront. Doing something active with a person on the second date gives you a built in thing to do,something to bond over because either you’re competing against each other or you’re on some kind of the team to do something.You can sort of get a feel for what kind of music they like if they have a sense of humor, and that kind of thing.Just something light and fun.It can keep the conversation moving because you have at least the activity to talk about, and you can interrupt any awkward silences through the activity.

For the third date, I always like to do a dinner and movie date.This way it can be a little more intimate but it’s still kind of casual.It is always interesting to pick a movie with someone. I think you can learn a lot about them that way. I try to do dinner afterwards so at least you have one built in conversational topic. You get to have some time discussing the movie to see what you like to vs what they like, and you can sort of establish their interests and whether or not you’re compatible in that regard.

After that, I feel like it really kind of depends on the person and what you’ve done so far.If you’re having a good time with them doing fun activities, then I highly recommend continuing that. Other types of fun activities could be going for a walk around your city, visiting a museum,and going to a park to either play a casual sport or having a picnic.All of these are things that if you still need a buffer you can maybe bring some friends with you once or twice. Things like this will help you sort of gauge whether or not this person is someone that you really want to be spending a lot of time with. I have also found that letting them plan sometimes can also help, first to take some pressure off you especially when you aren’t from the area, but also because it is nice and considerate.

So far, I’ve had a couple of contenders get to a point where we went on a 5th or 6th date. Some of them have become acquaintances, some I have not talked to again.One or two have become what I would consider a pretty close friend. I’m enjoying myself so far. I really hope that you can do that too, and I wish you all the best.


Be Open to Opportunity

Be Open to Opportunity

I am trying very hard to be open to making friends and meeting people wherever it may happen. One thing that I am learning here is the Americans are very friendly. People are always smiling at me. I have found that if I return the smile, it can lead to little conversations. Much of my day can be made up of these little conversations. I think this is a great start. It helps me practice my American English, which is different than what I learned at school, and also is just a good way to keep kindness in my day.

I am trying to keep an eye out for others who might be lonely. There is a male student who is always getting a coffee just ahead of me at the café before my chemistry class. He always sits down near the window with a book. One day when the class was cancelled, I went back to the café and asked if I could sit at the table with him since the café was fairly crowded. He said it was fine and actually put the book away. We talked a little about how our days were going and what he was reading. It turned out to be a book series that I am a little familiar with as well, so now whenever we see each other we have something to talk about. I am not sure if it will develop into anything but it is nice.

Another thing that I am attempting is extracurriculars. I have been looking for clubs to join, academic and interest based. So far I have not had as much luck with the interest based groups, but I did join a premed association here at school that has allowed me to meet many people. I have classes with some of them, and that was helpful too. I do not feel so much like I am one person in a sea of people I don’t know when I sit down to hear lectures anymore—I walk in and suddenly it becomes, there is Chris, and there is an empty seat next to Angie. I’ll say hi to him and then sit next to her. Slowly I am becoming more comfortable with the people in the association and we are starting to talk about plans outside of studying and academia, so there is potential there.

I also found a group online through Meetup.com that does volunteer work. It gives my spirit a boost to help others, and I can go as my schedule allows. I am exploring more of my host city and meeting people from all backgrounds. It has been very good for me. Sometimes, small groups of us will go out to eat after we are done with our volunteer work. That is my favorite part. Usually, there are between five and seven of us, a good size amount of people. Not too many but enough that it feels like there is always someone to talk to.

Whenever the large classes are broken down into smaller groups, I try to socialize with my group members by finding out their names and where they are from. Then the next time I see them, I am able to greet them by name. People seem to appreciate that very much. I have made several acquaintances that way and have noticed people are starting to remember my name as well.


First Meeting Advice

I will admit that I have tried some online dating and interest groups since I have come here. It can feel dangerous and unsafe, so I have thought very hard about what I can do that will not diminish my desire to go out and meet people, but also give me a sense of security and feel like it is OK.

I will admit before meeting someone for a date, I will look them up online. I will check their social media and things like that just to make sure that the information they have told me matches what I see on the internet. There has been an incident or two where I found that the person had a girlfriend or was not really who they said they were.

I also talk to them on the phone a few times, too. Mostly to see if I feel comfortable talking to them because sometimes I do not. Sometimes people just are not compatible. It is always good to find out at this early stage before it goes any farther.

Next, I will agree to meet them at a public place that is not on campus. I usually don’t even tell people where I attend school. There are a few here and are decent sized so that helps. I tell the RA on duty where I am going and my sister, too, even though she is an intern at a hospital several hours away. It is imperitive that you tell someone where you are going and the person you are supposed to be meeting. I do not assume that every person I attempt to meet is dangerous but it is better to be smart. People need to know where you will be and who you are supposed to be with. Usually, I make the first meet a coffee date. This way it isn’t too long of an amount of time but is enough to see if you want to see that person again. Even if they invite me to a movie or something afterward, I will say no. Partly because then I will be somewhere that I have not told anyone about but also to give us both an out if either one of us isn’t feeling it but thinks it is necessary to be polite. I always check back in with my RA to let them know I have returned. A second date can definitely be longer but I will tell my sister what my plans are. If our plans change, I will excuse myself as politely as possible at the first opportunity to text her and let her know. I have been on a couple of third and fourth dates but nothing too serious so far.

For group events, I have a much easier time. I just tell someone where I am going and then I go straight there and back. If there are a group of people that Ihave been talking to that want to extend the event and go somewhere else, I’ll only go if I really feel comfortable. I’ll text my sister, too. I never get in the car with anyone and always drive myself separately, or will suggest somewhere within walking distance.

Some experiences have been good and others not so good, but I do feel safer taking some smart precautions. I wish you luck meeting people and hope you stay safe too.


What I have Found on the Internet

What I have Found on the Internet

I have really been trying to reach out to people face to face but sometimes that can be intimidating and hard. So I also look on the internet or use apps. Here are some of the best that I have found:

Meetup.com has been a great resource, because if you google “find groups in my area” you will mostly get support groups for various physical and mental ailments. That’s great and all but not what I’m actually looking for. Meetup.com, on the other hand, is actually what I need. I can search for any type of interest and find groups of people near me who care about it too. I can see a calendar of events and pick and choose what I want to attend. I can talk to other members of the group as well. This is how I found my volunteer work group and it has been really wonderful. The people are nice, the work we do is appreciated, and it makes me feel really good. I get to focus on something besides college and how homesick I can be. And I think a lot of the participants in the group feel very similarly. A lot of them are far from home too. You don’t have to use it for a volunteer group, though. You will find everything from playgroups for kids to adventurous activity groups to bar crawlers to book clubs. If you’re not in a heavily populated area, you may have to drivea ways  to find your people, but where I am is pretty centralized. There is a lot of stuff here. I am lucky in that way.

My school also has a searchable club and organization database that I can search to find out when and where the meetings are held. I haven’t had quite as much luck there but I am still trying. I am in one group for my major that is very active. They do a lot of study groups and discussions, so while it can be useful, I find it can sometimes be…unappealing to do. Some of the other clubs I have been to, the students are very…intense, I think the word is. They are big fans of the topic and have a hard time with people who are casually interested and really just want to get out of the dorms. Other clubs were more work than I had hoped they would be, and I cannot let my social life ruin my academics.

I have had the best dating luck, if you want to call it that, using either Zoosk or Match.com. I have met up with a few people that I was matched to through those. It has been interesting.  I have not been matched with too many duds yet. One, maybe two that were a bit boring. Some I don’t continue to pursue romantically but would like to keep as friends. I have met at least five nice guys this way. They are good for going to a movie with or a telephone call every once in a while. Or even going out to dinner or something.

Well, that’s it for today. I have another match to email. Thanks for reading!