Every week, The Friendship Files features a conversation between The Atlantic’s Julie Beck and two or more friends, exploring the history and significance of their relationship.
This week she talks with two women who have the same last name (no relation), both from the Midwest, who did the same internship at the United Nations, one after the other. The first intern made a Google Doc to guide her replacement. Seized with new-job panic, the second intern called her predecessor for assistance. That’s when they discovered how much they had in common, and they’ve been in touch ever since—though they’ve met in person only once, for two hours. Even so, as they plan for the uncertainty of post-grad life, they’re planning to end up in the same place one day.
Courtney Zhu, 22, a senior majoring in journalism at Northwestern University, in Evanston, Illinois
Lilian Zhu, 23, a Fulbright scholar in Imperatriz, Brazil
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.
Julie Beck: So you guys met in an unusual way—through a Google Doc. Can you set the scene of how this happened?
Courtney Zhu: We both worked as interns on a team at the United Nations that oversees a procurement market for development projects worldwide. What that means is we publish a lot of postings from the world’s leading development entities that suppliers and tenders can then bid on. It’s a niche thing, and going into it, I had very little background in this world.