The meaning of “close friends” is different to me after coming to the US. So, what changed?

Kaushal Joshi


Firstly, I want to preface this by saying we all are human beings meaning we all are imperfect, constantly growing, and maturing at our own rate with age and experiences. Therefore, even my presently “changed” meaning of close friends could change and evolve more with time. That is the beauty of life to me.

I spent most of my childhood and teenage years in my home country of Nepal. I studied in Mahendranagar in the Far Western province of Nepal, my hometown, until my 10th grade. During that time I made some really close friends who are still in touch with me after so many years. However, I was merely 15 years old when I graduated from my school meaning close friends to me were friends I would hang out with, go out to eat, take pictures, post on social media how incredible our friendship is, and so forth. We all were young teenage kids who were just happy to have spent all these years together with fun and a sense of belongingness.

After moving to the capital Kathmandu for my 11th and 12th in St. Xavier’s College, Maitighar, I noticed my attitude towards making friends and building friendships changing. Now, this was also the time when I was constantly figuring myself out and learning more about my own identity so everything around me seemed new. Likewise, moving to a whole new city, a whole new Nepali cultural backdrop added to the pressure of trying to “fit in”. However, the friends I made at college helped me a lot with the transition and anxiety I was feeling. Moreover, having my best friends from my hometown also present in Kathmandu helped me in still staying true to my friendships. We would go out, explore the streets of Kathmandu, celebrate birthdays, go to concerts and programs, and all that. It was very much similar to my time in Mahendranagar with a little bit more focus on studying and thinking more about the future. Furthermore, it was a great time and I am grateful to all the friends I have made and the connections I have forged throughout my time in Nepal.

Fast forward 6–7 years after my time in Kathmandu, I found myself at the crossroads of graduating from SUNY Oswego in the United States and finding jobs/ setting career goals. Did I struggle in the beginning to make friends in the US? No! I am naturally an extrovert and I love initiating conversations with people so definitely making friends and being part of the college community were not difficult phases of my undergraduate life. What was difficult, however, was building those connections further, sustaining the friendships, and having a close group of friends like I had in Nepal.

It took me time (and by the time I mean almost 2 years in Oswego, NY) to realize what was not working out for me in terms of having *cringe alert* “besties”. What had changed for me was not only the cultural shift of moving from Nepal to the US but also the reasons why I would have a close friend. I was not the same kid from high school who would go to classes to learn, have fun with his friends, and repeat all over again. Likewise, I was not always surrounded by my family members and their economic support. Here in the US, I was also working, organizing events, looking for career options, and adapting to the culture shock, all while also focusing on studies and being away from home and family. And with time, I had become so individualistic and busy with my own academic and professional life that having casual friendships and meeting new people seemed more manageable with less maintenance. However, I had failed to realize that I do need a close group of friends to stay social, maintain my personal life, and have my own mental sanity. I am glad I realized it during the end of my sophomore year in college after which I started jotting down the limitations I was having in building close friendships and what I actually was looking for in friends.

I figured out that having a close friend at this stage of my life meant people who would respect my space and privacy, were more or less on the same boat as I was in terms of my undergraduate journey, and allowed me to grow and fall in love with myself first and I would help them do the same. A very American way of thinking if you ask me. Definitely part of it was me adapting to the American lifestyle when it comes to work and academics. However, I also think with different stages of life, one’s priorities and needs are also different. It is important to stop, reflect, and check in to see how you are doing in terms of both your professional and personal lives.

I eventually made some really amazing close friends in college with whom I am going to be in touch even after graduation. But I also believe the friendships I forged with them are also as strong as the ones I made in school back home. It is completely okay to change the meaning behind friendships with a change in lifestyle, career, and goals. If they really are your close friend, they will be happy to join the ride with you, get off the ride when they have to, and still clap and support you from far away.

So, the biggest takeaways from my story could include (but are not limited to):

  • You as an individual should always come first. Take care of yourself, enjoy the alone time you have, do something creative, and hold on to the peace that comes within you.
  • You can still keep your peers close to your heart even if they are physically far away or if you have not talked to them for weeks. It is ok. Everyone needs their own time and space.
  • If they are a true close friend of you, they will come around and support you. Trust yourself and your friends.