Studying in an international summer program is a strange context. Most of the people here have come on their own, either knowing no one at all or only knowing a few people from their university by face. The feeling of utter friendlessness is heightened by everyone's awareness of being in a different culture, where the structures of life as it is comfortable have been removed.
It's been fascinating to watch myself and others navigate the insecurities that this unique context raises. Some people opt to find that one person to do everything with. Others, and I for the most part fall into this category, ally themselves with a small group that they can float into and out of at will. Still others seem completely independent, either withdrawn into their own worlds or engaging a wide variety of people without needing to be really attached to any of them.
It feels a bit like middle school to me, like everyone's feeling out the social waters, not sure exactly where they, or anyone else for that matter, stands. I realized last night that it's easy for me in this kind of context to become completely self-centered, worrying about not wanting to be alone, trying to make everyone like me. It does not come naturally for me to shift my focus elsewhere - to think about the insecurities of others, to find ways to serve and bless them, to spend time and social energy on others who may not have as much to offer me. The desperation for the approval of others, which is present in my heart at all times, becomes much more pronounced when I'm removed from the security of those I know and trust.
It's realizations like these which I think are an important part of stepping outside one's culture and comfort zone periodically. I become much more aware of the reality of my own heart and its less than desireable motives.