The people I meet studying abroad come in many different servings. Some, in the infamous words of Patrick Bateman in “American Psycho,” are single-serving friends, whose paths cross mine only for a brief moment, on an airplane or in a cafe, for instance, before fishtailing off again. Others are defined by classrooms and lecture halls, frantic late night messages about Scottish poetry and general “what did you do this weekend” conversations before class. Then there are familiar faces in the crowd, the ones with whom I swap stories and secrets and who I’m excited to see at the end of each day. All of the people I see — some old friends, some new, some strangers entirely — breathe a fresh sense of life and dynamism into these foreign cities, making each place feel a little more like home.

For me, the art of forming families with strangers started in my tiny flat deep in the heart of Edinburgh. In a five-person apartment with more doors than rooms, it took a good few days before I’d officially met all of my flatmates. Our first stiff meetings, which ranged from quick hellos on the way to the shower to accidentally breaking my bedroom window in an attempt to open it, soon grew into dinner invitations and pub crawls, but not without a few mishaps.

I avoided saying my one Scottish flat mate’s name for nearly a week because I couldn’t understand her thick accent when she introduced herself; my other Scottish flat mate recently confessed that it took her ages to stop confusing the other girls. After meeting days before, one of my other flat mates introduced herself to me in the kitchen, thinking I was new because I was wearing glasses.

Together, we’re a patchwork family of Hoyas; the five of us represent four distinctly different nations and cultures — Scotland, Malaysia, China and the United States — yet we come together every night for homemade dinner and talk about our days as if we’ve known each other our whole lives.

On Guy Fawkes Night, Nov. 5, my two Scottish flat mates and I climbed the premier hill in Edinburgh to watch fireworks commemorating Fawkes’ failed  Gunpowder Plot in 1605. As people around us shot fireworks into the night sky, my flatmates exchanged childhood stories of their own experiences of the annual Bonfire Night.

Now, as I reflect I am able to recognize just how lucky I have been to live in this apartment. As cliche as it sounds, our little place was the site of constant cultural exchange, whether that was discussing Malaysian politics over tea or attempting to explain the American colloquialism “turnt” before a night out. At the end of a long (usually cold) day, it was the perfect place to call home.

The art of relationships carries over while travelling out of Edinburgh. In Dublin last weekend, I was taken in by friends of friends, even though I’d never met any of them before. This sudden hospitality transformed an unknown city into an exciting adventure with locals. Through our hosts, my flat mates and I got a sneak peek into the life of an everyday Dubliner, complete with visiting the best local pubs and delving into the city’s underground burrito scene (who knew Ireland was so big into burritos?).

When I asked my mother for travel recommendations this semester, all she replied was “stay where you have a bed.” Besides giving me a warm place to sleep, staying with distant relatives, family friends or even distant friends of friends adds a flair to travel that I would never get in a hotel. For a day or two, I get to experience life as an insider, through the eyes of a local who knows the streets like the back of her hand. Even if I don’t become best friends with my hosts, they help transform each stay into a memory I’ll surely tell in the future.

I came to Scotland knowing a grand total of one person and, in all honesty, I did not intend to hang out with other Georgetown students. Yet I’ve somehow found another home away from home in these other Hoyas. Maybe it was because we immediately related on a base level and existed in the same social world bookmarked by Leo’s and Lau, but these relationships were especially refreshing because, like with all of the other students here, they started out with a blank slate.

Together we’ve ventured off the beaten track, discovered local farmers markets and favorite coffee shops and become friends by choice, not just because of geographic proximity. Befriending other Georgetown students, the majority of whom I’d never seen before, revealed that a home can be found in all shapes and sizes abroad, even where you least expect it.

Margie Fuchs is a junior in the College. Life on the Fringe appears every other Friday.

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