I've just been checking in on my friend on exchange in Denmark, and I couldn't be prouder. She's having such an amazing time, really connecting with her host families and it makes me think about my own exchange. Something she wrote really rang true for me:
"I think it’s safe to say that I had no clue what I was getting my self into when I got on that plane. Yeah, I went to all of the orientations and talked to other students, both inbound and rebound. Yeah, I read the handouts and did my research, but looking back, I didn’t really know anything. I didn’t know what it was like to be away from your family. I didn’t know what it was like to see your friends going on with their lives without you. I didn’t know what it was like to feel alone. I didn’t know what it was like to sit there and not understand a single thing."
It's true, you have no idea what you're getting yourself into the instant you make that journey from the security gate out to the plane that will take you away to a distant country. I have to say that this experience is nothing like what the many exchange students have described to me a hundred times. It's so much harder than anyone can even imagine. But at the same time, it's the most wonderful experience of my life. And it's helping me see things from a clearer perspective than I have in so many years. It has helped me see myself in ways I hadn't even fathomed until now.
I have always been afraid to stray from what makes me feel safe. That's why when I got here, my immediate reaction was to stick around the other North American exchange students, because I was scared to be surrounded by the unfamiliar. It was recently that I realized that the danger came from the familiar, and thus the only safety would come from expanding my horizons. I have found people in my class with whom I don't have to pretend to be something in order to keep the peace, I can simply be my loud, often obnoxious self, and nothing bad will come of it. The most memorable and happy experiences I've had since being here have been sitting on a stone step at quarter to midnight with a kid from my class, talking about nothing at all, then trudging off for fries with another classmate a few minutes later. We walked to where one of my host fathers would be picking us up, chatting away in two languages and laughing loudly. I couldn't have asked for a more amusing night.
This revelation has also made me realize that I haven't gotten along well with my brother in so very long. I wish this could be different, I wish I could say otherwise, but it's true, and it brings tears to my eyes. My brother has to be one of the most important people in my life, and I love him with all my heart, but we know each other too well to get along. I sometimes wish he was with me so that we could have one of our rare moments of laughter and fun together. I find myself telling fun little anecdotes about our misadventures, and thinking of something funny to tell him about later. Then that moment comes when Sunday night rolls around and I can have the chance to talk to him, and he isn't even awake. The only thing I can think in those moments is (cruelly enough) this is incredibly typical of him. I keep hoping that he'll come to the phone and tell me how much he misses me, and I will do the same, and everything will be alright; but then I remember how nonchalantly he said "See ya" at the airport and I know that that moment is a long time coming for both of us. This year will afford us both the opportunity to grow and learn, and perhaps when we see each other again, things will be different. I have a feeling this will be so :)
Back to what Andrea said about having to watch your friends move on with their lives without you. It's odd, because I think I miss them more now that I've adjusted to being here and making new friends than I did when I first got here and didn't know anyone. I'm seeing that a lot of my friends are now in University, and a part of me wishes I was with them right now, but I know in my heart that this was something I had to do for me. I hope they know that I still care about them, that I love them and that I wish they were with me in this strange but wonderful country. However, I know that life will be good to us no matter what paths we ultimately take. They will always be in my heart even if they forget about me entirely while I'm off learning about myself and becoming entirely fluent in french, spanish and dutch (which I don't get at all, but I'm giving it my best shot.)
Well, I think that'll be all for now. I have an awful lot of sleeping to do after my night of fun with the Belgians last night ha ha ha!
Till next time,