By Iris Lin
I nervously scratched my head as I looked around the Coho at the Memorial Union. I didn’t realize until now that I had no idea what my pal looked like. Should I text her what color I’m wearing? I wondered. I had no idea what to expect and wandered around for a few more minutes before a girl sitting alone at a table waved at me. I walked over, sat down, and started one of my most favorite journeys that I’ve embarked upon in my time here at UC Davis.
We shared giggles over the loud couple arguing next to us at a nearby table. I thought that it was going to be a stiff first meeting. I didn’t really know anything about her, besides the fact that she was a Japanese student studying English at Davis for the next three months. However, we quickly went about sharing our majors, interests, food, and much more in that first meeting. We connected quickly, despite some initial vocabulary mishaps. Her mouth gaped open upon me taking off my jacket, revealing a large henna arm sleeve that my friend had drawn on me the day before. She asked me if it was a real tattoo, and reached over to touch the artwork. She shared that in Japan, the majority of people who sport tattoos oftentimes have gang relations. We both shared a hearty laugh over that.
As we continued to meet over the course of the quarter, we would go to various boba places around town, restaurants for lunch, and we even got together at my apartment to bake cookies together. It moved from “tutoring” my pal partner in english (which I had assumed would be the majority of our conversations) to simply being good friends. We learned from each other, shared playlists of our favorite music, taught each other slang in our first languages. And although our goodbye was extremely difficult for me, I found this desire to continue in the Pal Program growing. I had never been in a space where I could connect with people from all over the world.
Now after three years of participating in the Pal Program, I have nine other pals that live all over the world. Our relationships have been different, but the connections and genuine friendships that were created in our time spent together have remained some of the best moments of my time here at college. Many of these friends I continue to keep in touch with, and I even went on a trip last summer to visit one of them for a week! I have also had the ability to work with the Pal Program, developing a wider campus presence and inviting more students to embark upon their own journeys. Pal has taught me so much about perspectives outside of my own. I’ve learned about various faith traditions, cultural differences, societal pressures, and much more. These valuable lessons have also taught me to reflect upon my own experiences, and will impact the way that I navigate through life. I am forever grateful for the friendships that I’ve gained through the Pal Program.
Iris Lin has had a total of 9 pals and has worked as a student staff member for the Pal Program for two years. In Spring 2018 she graduated from UC Davis with a Bachelors in Design.