You always hear about how hard it is to go away and adapt to a new environment and new style of living. But what about when you go home? What happens post studying abroad?
Departing for exchange, you knew you were going to be back. Although sometimes it felt like forever away, you always had it mind. But it creeps up on you as time goes by quickly and suddenly you must leave. Leave the new life you built. The life your friends and family back home don’t know anything about. Okay yes, you TOLD them about it, they’ve seen the photos on Facebook and Instagram, but they don’t know what it was like. They don’t know the grocery store you shopped at. They don’t know how you had to become used to repeating yourself because people couldn’t understand your accent or use of slang. And they’ll never know the deep connection you had with your new friends there and fellow exchange students. You no longer can relate to anyone on the emotions and feelings you experienced there. The memories you made. How great it was. They don’t know what you had to leave behind.
I was an emotional mess in the last few weeks of my exchange. On one hand, it was exciting to go back, to see my friends and family, and my home. I was excited for the warm weather. I was excited for food (I have never wanted a meat pie so bad before!). But I was also extremely sad.
When you leave your exchange, you don’t just leave the country and your new friends, you leave the experience. You come to the realisation that it will never be that way again. Whilst you can always visit and see your friends again, it will never be the same. You no longer can cook in the common kitchen and expect to run into your friends. You’re not going to be catching the same trains and buses for uni. You might not even see everyone together again as a group.
This is terribly scary to think. Although things might have been a little shitty at times, I would give anything to go back to my exchange semester. I now realise how good it really was. It’s made me the person I am today. I will always cherish the memories I made there and I’m sure 90% of my stories will begin with ‘on my exchange…’ which will probably annoy everyone but that’s because of how great it was.
I like to think that it’s not the end but a new beginning. There is life after exchange. And you will forever remember and cherish your time there. So maybe I will never be completely home again, but I guess that’s why it’s called an exchange. Whilst you take part of your host country and experience with you, you also leave part of you there.
Words and Images by Bridget Kerry.