Off-Third: How to prepare for your returning study abroad friends

They’re going to be insufferable, but it’s best to adapt. They won’t be your average American student anymore.


(Illustration by Victoria Liu)

Stacia Datskovska, Contributing Writer

Off-Third is WSN’s satire column.

You’ve heard the rumors: people change — I mean, become insufferable — when they return from a semester abroad. Now, it seems like it’s your turn to experience the joys of welcoming your friend back from wherever in Europe it was they’ve spent the past four months. Based on their Instagram feed, the answer to that is everywhere. So, put your jealousy aside. Here’s how you should prepare for their arrival so that you can give them the proper, hearty and all-American homecoming that they deserve.

First, get rid of the creepy owl language app on your phone and just drill the correct pronunciations of the words “BarTHElona” and “brusKETTa,” day in and day out. And don’t you dare slip up ordering a panini — it’s a panino. Your friend will have you know they tried the best one in the world just steps away from their Florentine apartment, and it was the size of their face. Indeed, be prepared for a lot of food-related recollections from your friend. After all, they are now a veritable Gordon Ramsey when it comes to knowing their way around tapas, types of sangria, the ideal temperature to eat a bratwurst or just what pepper-to-cheese ratio every cacio e pepe dish should have. 

And forget about ever enjoying coffee again. You might as well part with your Pret Perks card and blacklist Blank Street Coffee. You and your friend won’t be going to places that serve diluted coffee anymore. Double shot espresso — taken as a single shot standing up — or bust. She will also look down on ice and oat milk. It’s the European way. Get with the program already!

If you think you’ll be able to stock up at Trader Joe’s for your next dinner party, you’re wrong. Your friend who studied in Berlin is now a new person. She can’t tolerate anything unless it’s in peak freshness and from an outdoor farmer’s market. You better hope that you live close to the Union Square Greenmarket.

Next on the to-do list: Deactivate all the smoke alarms in your apartment. Balcony access won’t cut it. Your friend’s jittery hands will be reaching for a Marlboro Red any chance they get, but not before they’ve sufficiently explained why, how and under what God cigarettes are three times more expensive in New York City than they are in Madrid. Just deal with their complaining and know the pain of doing so is not permanent. Your friend will soon get tired of everyone in the city ostracizing them for their cigarette addiction — except for maybe the East-Villain-adjacent demographic or the whole Russian-speaking community of Brighton Beach. Soon enough they’ll return to Puff Bars in the ultimate display of American patriotism.

Your friend will also be frantically calling someone named Ryan when they arrive in the States. This is not a new boyfriend. It’s Ryanair, and they’re calling to get a refund for that one Ibiza trip when the plane stood on the runway for 10 hours because they couldn’t find a pilot. You can be a champ and let them know right away it’s a lost cause — Ryanair is notorious for having a response time of three to five business decades. In fact, your friend will be put on hold behind every other NYU kid who spent their semester abroad and made the grave mistake of flying Ryanair. But hey — it’s the cheapest airline in Europe.

If you’re going to be roommates with your expatriate friend in the new semester, go the extra mile and reserve lots of closet space for them. Their Oktoberfest garb will take up most of it, followed by a frighteningly large amount of Bershka jeans and VEJA sneakers. If closet space is unattainable for you in this economy, Varick Street has a great storage facility. Consider it your next best investment for your friend’s utmost comfort.

Last but not least, try to understand that your friend won’t shut up about what cafe on Carroll Gardens they were sitting in when they heard that the queen died. They’ll make you believe that the event changed the entire trajectory of their lives, but we all know the truth: their presence was never documented amid the mourners near Buckingham Palace

Your friend has now been to Europe, and they are objectively better than you. Do your best to come to terms with it before they come back. 

WSN’s Opinion section strives to publish ideas worth discussing. The views presented in the Opinion section are solely the views of the writer.

Contact Stacia Datskovska at [email protected].