The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus


Making friends in unexpected places

When I first heard I was staying in a hostel in New York City for a week, I was less than thrilled.  I was going on an Alternative Spring Break, but I had assumed I would be in a hotel.  I mean, what is a hostel anyway?

Once I had arrived in New York City and got off the subway, we walked about a block before my leader said, “Here we are.”  I had just stopped in front of a nice little townhouse across the street from Central Park.  It definitely looked better than I expected.  Once inside, and after getting our room assignment, I trudged up the two flights of stairs to set my luggage down. 

I took out the two things I needed, then zipped my luggage up and pushed it as far under my bed as I could.  I assumed someone was going to steal my stuff, so I figured I would at least make him use a little effort.

That first day was an interesting one.  I did not talk to anyone in the hostel outside of my group, and I mainly walked around listening to my iPod while reading a book. 

My buddy’s first purchase on the trip was a lock for his suitcase because he was certain his stuff was going to get taken. 

On my first night at the hostel, someone invited me to a jazz club. I respectfully declined because I was already half asleep from my 4 a.m. flight that day, but it was a nice gesture nonetheless.  I began to wonder if my fears were unfounded.

The next evening, I went downstairs again to do some reading and music listening.  Before I got a chance to get started, this guy from Argentina introduced himself to me and we started a conversation about the city, where we had been, sports, etc.  It was interesting and I loved learning about another country.  When I got back to my room, I joined in a little discussion among a group of Brazilians and talked with them for a while.  I still felt a little unsure and out of place, but it was getting better.

I still went downstairs in the evening with my iPod and book, but I knew that I was going to end up talking to somebody.  I sat down on the couch and “The Lost World” was on.  I started talking to the girl next to me, whom I found was from Wales.  We ended up talking for about two hours that night, about our homes, travels, and education. 

I loved hearing her stories about how she was finishing up a five-month trip that included visits to Malaysia and Australia, both of which were very interesting to hear about.  She had come to New York for two weeks before flying back to Wales and starting at a university next fall. 

I think the funniest part was when she asked if we had a “Mackey D’s” which, after a little discussion, I found meant McDonald’s.  Little cultural things like that were one of the best parts of getting to talk about our homes and countries.  I went to bed really enjoying the hostel experience. 

The fourth evening, I did not even bother with the book or headphones.  I went downstairs right away to go talk to my new friends.  I spoke with the girl from Wales for about an hour, talking about how our days went. 

I also met some awesome people from Germany who were simply hilarious.  There was a large group downstairs that night, and everybody just shared stories and laughed like we were a big group of old friends. 

By the fifth day, the girl from Wales was friends with everybody in our group and actually went with us on a couple of sightseeing activities. 

When it was finally time to go, it was a sad day.  I said goodbye to my Irish friends who had come in from Dublin to New York for St. Patrick’s Day.  I left behind all of my South American friends as well.  Finally, I had to say goodbye to my new friend from Wales. 

It was funny how I expected the hostel to be the worst part of the trip but it ended up being my favorite experience.  The chance to meet new people, learn different customs, and just make friends was incredible.  I highly suggest living in one if you get the opportunity. 

Seeing so many young people from across the world live together and, more than that, get along together, was truly an amazing thing that gives me hope about the future of our society and world. 

The whole experience can be summed up by the quote above the mural in the hostel kitchen that said, “There are no strangers here, only friends who haven’t met yet.”  If only we all thought like that.

Matthew Gayer is a freshman biology major. He can be reached for comment at [email protected].

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