the foriegn exchange

Six Months After

Everyone talks about Exchange. They talk about the phases you go through –Excitement–> Hardships–> Boredom–> Missing home at the holidays –> Re-birth–> Exchange becomes your life. 

What about the phases when you get home? Those are important too and can leave you feeling just as many emotions.

1-2 months after exchange: Ups&Downs

Being home is exciting. You are re-discovering your old life, but with new eyes. You re-discover certain comforts of home you were missing for a year. Most days. Some days. Other days you question weather you are really “home”. You miss exchange. You want to go back. Every day you feel different. 

3-4 months after exchange: Re-building

This is the stage in which you re-build your life. If can be frustrating, but over-all exciting. For those of us who went straight to college, it’s nice having something new to do. It’s like adventures on exchange again. After all, how many exchange students actually do well with routine?

But it will be hard. People will get annoyed, they won’t understand that 4 months ago still feels like yesterday for you. They won’t understand that your version of “homesickness” is different than theirs. They might be able to drive home on the weekends, or look forward to break, but you’ll be counting change wondering how long it will take you to save up for a plane ticket “home”. Your homesickness will only ever be “half” clenched.  

5-6 months after exchange: What is home?

This is the stage, right as the holidays are approaching. The excitement to celebrate the holidays in a traditional way is exhilarating, after all, you feel as if it’s been 2 years since Christmas. Yet something feels wrong as your find your self longing to spend the holidays in the way you once did. As in you did, one time. You can’t stop talking about traditions that aren’t yours. “Home for the Holidays” is a confusing phrase that has a strange meaning to you. Everyone has been busy will school and you talk to your friends less, but miss them just as much if not more. Photos start appearing, “One year ago today”, and you spend an entire day looking through all your photos, wondering how time passed so fast.

Everyday exchange passes through your mind, every hour actually. And you feel mute. Like no one will listen. Like those you do talk to don’t understand what you are talking about. Exchange is like another life, hidden inside you. People talk about “home” when they get “homesick”. You find your words and thoughts split between too places, and no one wants to hear about your year in Italy because you seem to full of yourself, but people can talk about home and no one would suggest that they think they are better than others. You fight the urge to mention that you didn’t live in Rome or Florence. You find yourself stuck in a life you aren’t able to exist in.

And you like your life in your home country. You like being at school in your native language, you are happy with your growth and progress, you have a better idea of your future.

You like having friends who speak your language, but yet you still find yourself struggling to be understood. You like that you’ll be going home soon, but you are still asking yourself, “what is home?”