When six American girls moved into our shared apartment for the semester, I have to admit I was nervous. This was going to be my first time working as an RA and being surrounded by Americans in my building. And these girls weren’t just Americans, they were New Yorkers. New York City is probably the most opposite of Prague you could get, so I didn’t know how I would relate to them.
But it turns out, I had nothing to worry about. Even the girl most opposite of me, Ankita, gets along with me well. The first time I met her, I was struck by how loud and sure of herself she was. (Later, when we had become friends, she apologized if she came off as obnoxious. I assured her that her loudness was endearing, lovable.) I – like most other people in the Czech Republic – am pretty quiet and reserved, and take a while to open up. But within the first 10 minutes of us meeting, she was asking me questions about my friends and family, making jokes with an ease as if she was talking to an old friend.
A month later, as we were eating my mother’s homemade strawberry jam in our kitchen at midnight, I brought this up with Ankita – how comfortable she had been around me, and how I wished I could talk to people more comfortably. She raised her thick, arched eyebrows knowingly, saying it was the “journalist in her” that has made it easy for her to flow into conversation with pretty much everyone.
I was intimidated, and I told her so. She laughed it off, assuring me that her short, black haircut, 11 piercings, 3 tattoos, and consistent wardrobe of leather jackets made her look much tougher than she actually was.
Ankita is definitely a character, and some of her habits are still completely new to me. She likes to go out, and I don’t drink. She spends about 20 minutes every morning doing her makeup and picking out a nice outfit, whereas I throw my hair into a ponytail and wear jeans and crocks to school. Another example; the minute she gets back from class and goes into her room, she starts blasting rap music from her speaker. Music – rap especially – has always seemed like distraction, like extraneous noise to me, but for her, it seems to be a stress relief. Music has barely been a part of my life, and it’s so interesting to see how passionate she is about it and how much it’s shaped her.
It’s odd to think how this person, from thousands of miles away, dropped into my life. Now, with only three weeks left of the semester, it seems that Ankita is going as quickly as she came. I’ll remember her positive energy, big smile, and elaborate cooking sessions in our kitchen- (she’s been dubbed “master chef” by the other girls in our suite.) Everything about us is completely different, yet we have managed to become friends. I am grateful that Ankita and I embraced our differences, using them as a way to further our friendship instead of inhibit it.
(Hopefully you could tell, but I was writing from the point of view of my RA who lives in my apartment, is from the Czech Republic and studies at Charles University.)