A recent article in the Oxford Student Newspaper advised against speaking with visiting students, saying, “Don’t bother befriending any visiting students. Yes, they’re unbelievably exotic, but too late you will realize that they aren’t in it for the long haul and before you know it they’ll have abandoned you for their ‘real friends’ back home.”
This perspective has had some backlash around Oxford; another newspaper on campus wrote an article about this same quote saying that it isn’t true and that visiting students are well-loved. The truth may lie somewhere in the middle. As a visiting student, I’m treated with respect and slight familiarity. I get a nod of recognition around campus, but I have noticed that many British students see uninterested in mingling with the visiting students.
In some ways I can understand why. Before arriving in England, I had the belief that the nine months in front of me was nearly a lifetime, but now that I’ve been here for more than a month, I have come to realize that time moves faster than I ever thought, and soon enough, I will be leaving. Why should I make an effort to make close friends here if I’ll just be heading back to the United States? And why should anyone here make an effort to make close friends with me knowing I will be leaving in a few months?
I think the answer is this. All of life is transient, but if we dwell on that fact, we will never connect with anyone. Andrew Marvell wrote in his poem “To His Coy Mistress:” “At my back I always hear / Time’s winged chariot hurrying near.” He did not write the line to mean that because things will end, we should protect ourselves by refusing to participate in life; in fact, it was quite the opposite. Marvell wanted to convince people to act now because things will end, and we have to experience things now, while we still have the chance. We can’t live forever, but we must live while we are here. At the end of my nine months here, I would rather go back to the United States missing the people I have befriended and come to love in the United Kingdom than spend my time here avoiding making connections simply to prevent the sadness associated with the inevitable good-byes. I would rather use my short time to its fullest, for, as Marvell also wrote, “Though we cannot make our sun / Stand still, yet we will make him run.”