When I was first assigned to do Collaborative Online International Learning (COIL) with two university students in Cali, Columbia, I was anxious. COIL, which involves having Skype conversations with students in another country (in our case, Columbia) and learning from each other, combines some of the skills I am worst at: making conversation with people I do not know, and keeping in touch with people I do not regularly see in person.
I was worried about the prospect of having to find things to say to fill my side of a lengthy conversation. It did not help that these students were from a part of the world that I have never been to and knew fairly little about. What if we did not have much in common? What would we talk about? I was also worried about maintaining a relationship with them throughout the semester. I have enough trouble keeping in contact with good friends whom I no longer see in person often, so how would I manage to keep in contact with people I had only just met?
When I had my first conversations with my partners, I realized that my first worry, at least, was irrational. I got along very well with both of them and quickly began to feel comfortable talking to them. I found that we had a lot in common and a lot to talk about, and the time flew by while we were talking. Our conversations were not particularly deep, but we talked a lot about ourselves and our interests and compared different aspects of our lives, and by the end of these conversations, I felt like I was really beginning to know both of these women. I felt like we could be friends.
However, then my second fear came into play. Immediately after those first two conversations, I traveled to Ireland for spring break. I was sightseeing and visiting with my sister, and I was not thinking about trying to keep in touch with my new friends. Then, when I returned from Ireland, my class was extremely busy finishing up the final preparations for an event we were planning; once again, I was not thinking about COIL. However, after that event was over, I had no excuse. I should have immediately checked in with my partners to catch up with them, but I waited another couple of weeks before contacting them. I cannot explain why. Time and again I wish I was better at keeping in touch with people, and time and again I fail to do this.
When we did get back in touch, however, I was quickly reminded of how much I enjoy talking to them. I still felt some nervousness before each conversation, some residual worry that I would not have enough to talk about, but that went away as soon as we started talking and instead, I felt at ease. Because of scheduling difficulties, we were only able to have a few more conversations before the end of the semester, but I very much enjoyed these conversations as we caught up and continued to get to know each other better. I also felt regret, though, at the thought of how much closer we could potentially be by now, if only I had made more of an effort to keep in contact with them throughout the semester. Moving forward, I hope to learn from this mistake and to do a better job of maintaining my relationships with my new friends from Cali.
Featured image: From Emory Cash, “How to Make Friends at Work,” Loft Resumes