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Hurricane Harvey and Unexpected Friends: Creating Friendships While Facing Adversity

Friends studying abroad. Photo by Rachel Caldwell.

Texas is known for quite a few things – cowboys, horses, barbecue, accents, and an endless sky, to name a few. But, ask any native Texan, and they will tell you the top two factors that describe Texas are its friendly atmosphere and its ever-changing, unpredictable weather. So, when a group of us students started preparing for our flight out of Houston with Millennium Tours to get to The Netherlands, it was no surprise to hear of a potential hurricane. The surprise came once we escaped the hurricane.

Our group of 18 had all planned on meeting in one of Texas’s largest cities to fly out on Saturday August 26, the day that Hurricane Harvey was scheduled to hit, but, surprise surprise, the flight was canceled and rescheduled for the next day. Once the group heard of the cancellation we all scattered across Texas to wait for further instructions. Students staying in College Station, Dallas, Richardson, and Katy waited anxiously for news of how our flight was going to take off in the midst of a category 4 hurricane. It wasn’t until early Sunday morning that we realized the true severity of the situation.

On the morning of August 27, Houston began experiencing unprecedented flood levels. Myself and two other students attempted what we called a, “Rescue Mission,” to pick up a couple of the boys on our trip and drive back to Dallas to avoid an unnecessary danger. It was on this drive that we became stranded facing the wrong direction on a highway. After checking multiple websites that update on road closures, we ultimately came to the conclusion that we would have to leave without the other couple of students, leaving a total of 5 individuals stuck in Houston while the rest of us made our way to the DFW airport.

Two students’ hotels began running out of food, one’s lost power. No one knew when or how everyone was going to be able to join each other in Amsterdam, but, eventually, we were all able to fly out on different days. Seven of us on Sunday, six on Monday, two on Tuesday, and three on Wednesday. You would think that the stress and elongated amount of time separated would cause our group to form separate cliques or to alienate students from each other, but that is the opposite of what happened.

Upon arrival, each of the students formed instant connections with each other. The bond formed over mutual concern and gratitude was one that destroyed barriers and shyness. We were all able to keep in touch through Wi-Fi apps and text messaging, making sure that each other were completely safe and happy all throughout our journey. The joy we all felt once our group was complete was evident to all who saw us; in fact, we were often asked by tour guides if we had all known each other for years. It was a completely unexpected but utterly authentic experience. So ultimately, we have to show a little gratitude for the natural disaster. Our connections may have become just as close later on in the trip, but we are so happy that we have the bond now, and so thankful for the safety and opportunity we have all been given. It is a true testament to the Texas mindset of hospitality and crazy weather, with one of the most joyful outcomes we could have imagined.

About Rachel Caldwell

Rachel Caldwell is a Junior at Baylor University. She is majoring in Marketing and minoring in Studio Art, with an emphasis in Design and Photography. She has a passion for art, communicating, and people; to pursue these things she has been able to work in promotions and blogging for musicians and concert venues, social media and grass roots marketing and art direction for small businesses, freelance art commissions, and journalism blogging for fashion and lifestyle blogs. In addition to Rachel’s professional career, she enjoys volunteering with individuals of all ages, reading, traveling, and most of all, investing in the community around her. This semester Rachel will be blogging while on her study abroad trip to Maastricht, the Netherlands.


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