The Thing No One Tells You About EXCHANGE

So somehow time has flown so quickly that it’s been 3 months since I had to say au revoir to Montreal and finish up my exchange (if you missed what I got up to – you can check it out here). So now uni has started (we’re somehow in Week 4?!), life back in Wollongong is in full motion and exchange feels somewhat of a dream.

Everyone always talks about how amazing exchange is. How it’s the best time of their life. How you’re going to make friends for life, drink too much, see wonders of the world, get your Instagram popping and how it’s going to change your freakin life! And all of this is true, and these are just some of the many reasons that I encourage everyone to seek the opportunity to study abroad and travel.

But in all honesty, I wasn’t prepared for the complete confusion, doubt and insecurity I faced at home and within myself when I returned to Australia. I’ve heard about reverse culture shock before, and I’ve lived away from home before and I knew something like this was coming… but it still smacked me in the face.

Whilst I know the following thoughts are natural and silly, at the time I was dealing with these thoughts, the stress and anxiety was real. My biggest fear was surround my friends.

Was I going to lose my friends that I’d just made in Montreal? Would they still be interested in my life back in Australia? Would they make time to talk to me? Would I make time to talk to them? Would my friends back home accept the new me? Would they even notice that I’ve changed? Would I even have my old friends back home? 

These (thankfully) were all dealt with and overcome when I saw my friends back in Australia again and I was overcome with happiness, gratitude and joy. Plus, being able to FaceTime and Snapchat my friends back in Montreal, it reassured me that these friendships are strong and real. And it actually made me appreciate them even more – the fact that they care about my life over here and they’re willing to put in the effort to keep in touch and keep the friendship alive.

My other concern was about my identity and personality, leaving me asking ‘who am I?’ I slowly saw myself, my ideas and my values change over the course of the time that I was away. I was exposed to problems and issues I’d never heard of, listened to stories of strength, injustice and survival, changed my core values, altered my ideas… all that cheesy stuff associated with going through a life changing experience. And you’re determined to hold on to it all, bring it all to your life back home and just be a freakin awesome changed woman.

But the reality is that you start to adjust back to your old life, old routine and old ways, and you can’t help but let some of those ideas go. You almost get trapped in between 2 versions of yourself, and you’re not really sure which one is the real you, or the one you want to move forward it. I guess everyone has these types of identity crises throughout their lives, but it’s especially apparent when you return from an adventure overseas.

So how do I move forward? Where do we go from here?

I think I’ll continue to romanticise my exchange, always giving me fun, beautiful and exciting memories to look back on. But my goal is to channel that feeling. The feeling that anything is possible, that anyone can be a friend, that your day could take you anywhere and that life is freakin beautiful. And I just need to accept that not everyone shares these ideas, but I can’t hold back who I am or what I want. I’ve got to remember to be fierce and do what sets my soul and heart on fire… chase and create that feeling.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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