Arranged friendship?


On Aug. 26, 2015, my dad introduced me to my future best friend, Anika Tabassum. 

Yes, an arranged friendship.

I was waiting outside the Center for the Arts with my dad for international student orientation. My dad went up to this girl standing all by herself in the corner. A nervous girl wearing a hijab, clueless about what was going on around her. 

If only I knew at that moment that this girl was going to be there for me all through my college life and not just that one week as she thought. 

Two days later, my dad left for India and I started having second thoughts about my decision to come to the United States. I had never felt this lonely and homesick before. 

Anika called to check up on me and introduced me to her other friends. We had the same group of friends and spent most of our time together. Our friendship started growing stronger after we opened up about our families, upbringing, classroom stories and struggles. We had different personalities but we were similar in many ways. 

We technically lived in different quads, but I was practically her fifth roommate. We decided to make it “official” and became roommates in sophomore year.

Fargo 688 was our little haven away from studying, college drama, homesickness and any other uncomfortable situations. 

We turned from friends to family, watched the weirdest videos available on YouTube, shared closets, became each other’s makeup artists and acted as the other’s therapists through difficult times. 

Soon, we applied to become RAs and AAs and got separated across campus. Anika became an AA at Governors and I was in Porter.

The distance felt like hundreds of miles apart. 

Junior year came with academic burden and other commitments. Meeting up every day was difficult. We met new people and got busy in our own worlds. 

But we caught up over FaceTime and made weekly lunch plans. Our friendship faced an obstacle, but we both knew that we were incomplete without each other. We spent a lot of time together during our paraprofessional training and soon people began to take notice of our sisterhood. “Omg, you guys are goals!” We heard this on a daily basis. 

Senior year came with good news. Anika was moved back to Ellicott and we were just a few steps away from each other, just like before. 

Our daily lunches, study sessions, sleepovers, procrastination and atrium meetups were back. I had my best friend right next to me and I loved her warm presence. Everything was perfect and back to normal. 

But we realized this was soon going to end. 

Never again life is going to be this easy and effortless. We wouldn’t be surrounded by the second family we found away from home. Our biggest obstacle used to be the distance from Porter to Governor’s. Now it’s going to be cities or maybe countries away from each other.

We will still be in touch but our careers and life will pull us away in different directions. We have no idea where life is going to take us and this uncertainty kills me. 

No matter where our ships sail, we will love each other unconditionally. Our friendship will be one for the ages, our kids will hear our stories. 

I can’t thank my dad enough for introducing us. Leaving UB is going to be a task because all my memories here are made with you, Anika. 

We grew up together in this little city of UB. Years from now when we visit UB, everything will have changed. New buildings, new people, new spots to hang out but the legacy of our friendship will remain. Our shared energy, our memories, our connection will still echo in the halls. 

Here’s my goodbye to the best 4 years of my life with my soul sister at UB. See Anika, I did remember you after one week. 

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