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Finding Family Away from Home: My Friendship Journey at HELP University

Five years ago, I started a whole new chapter at HELP University, stepping into a world where everything—from classes to making friends—felt completely unfamiliar. As an international student from Iran, those early days were a mix of excitement and nervousness, trying to navigate through a new campus and a different way of studying.

At first, making friends beyond class discussions seemed like a distant dream. I craved connections that went deeper than just talking about assignments. Halfway through my first semester, things started to change. A few classmates and I bonded over shared lectures, struggled together with APA formatting (seriously, who invented that?), and even shared meals. These moments laid the foundation for real friendships.

various teabags

But what really changed everything for me was tea. Yes, you heard that right—tea! It started with a simple box of Boh teabags and some paper cups that we hid in a library drawer which eventually disappeared and we dared not ask the librarian about it, for obvious reasons!

Determined to keep our tea tradition alive, I rented a locker and stocked it with reusable cups and all sorts of different blends. Offering tea became more than just a gesture; it became a symbol of hospitality and friendship, reminding me of my Iranian roots.

One day, during a discussion with a supervisor about a project on adolescent friendships, I shared how offering tea had become my way of bonding with classmates. She remarked,

Not having your family around for all these years probably gave you a lot of room to explore friendships. For many of us living with our families, the urgency isn’t quite as strong, because at the end of the day, we have our family to go back to.

Her words resonated deeply. They captured the essence of my journey—six years of actively cultivating in-person friendships after relying solely on online connections. Despite the challenges, whether commuting for hours from Gombak to Subang campus or feeling the pang of homesickness, my friends provided unwavering support and companionship. They became my surrogate family, celebrating my joys and sharing my sorrows.

Sure, I miss my family back home every single day. I still cry sometimes when I think about them. But being here has taught me something valuable: having friends who listen, who understand, and who celebrate you is just as important. It's like having your sadness listened to and acknowledged, making your sadness happy!

One day I will leave HELP, and when the day comes, I carry with me not just a couple of degrees, but a treasure trove of memories and friendships that have shaped who I am today. From the humble beginnings of sharing tea to the profound conversations and the bond of understanding, these friendships have been my anchor and my joy. They’ve reminded me that home isn’t just a place; it’s a people too - who see the good, the bad and the ugly, and they still decide to stay.


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