Living away from home for me, has got to be one of the best things about exchange. I’m not sure what the other bloggers have found, but as someone who’s never lived out of home before – having my independence has been the best.
Whilst some days I put off doing the washing forever, and I’ll get takeout because I can’t be bothered cooking I love the fact that what I do, is what I decide to do. I think it’s similar to when people first move out of home – either you’ll love it or want to go back. Right now I’m struggling to come to terms with fact that I’m going to have to go back to living at home!
One of my real concerns about being over here, was that I wasn’t going to cope. I wouldn’t be able to cook, or I’d ruin my clothing washing for the first time and other stupid concerns like that. The reality has been that I haven’t even got that homesick. I have spoken to some exchangers who really want to go back home, but for me, going home is the last thing I want to do! When you go on exchange, in the pre-departure briefing they show you a diagram that says that when you get to your exchange destination, there’s going to be a period where you’re upset, depressed, etc and want to go back home, after which things get better as you adjust living in a different country.
For me, that couldn’t be further from the truth. I remember my first few days here as pure bliss – as my flight got into Amsterdam I could look out my window and see windmills, bike paths and the landscape was completely flat for as far as the eye could see! My first trip on the train, looking at the landscape, then being driven to my accommodation in Maastricht in a Mercedes S-Class (it was just a normal taxi!). After that came the first time I meet new people in the Guesthouse, then there was INKOM – the local’s orientation. Then the exchangers orientation run by ESN. And just when I thought things couldn’t get much better, then came my first trip to a new country on one of my many weekend trips. It just didn’t stop. And then there was the first time it snowed!
Ever since I’ve got here, things have just got more and more amazing and the only low points I can remember from the past 4 months are exams (which went as quickly as they came), and the point when I realized I wasn’t going to be seeing the sun for the next few months (Dutch weather, believe me when I say it’s horrid!). Sure studying at Maastricht is a challenge (and that is putting it at its mildest!) but I’m at the point now where I think there’s a reverse bell-curve going on, and now that I’ve only got about 3 weeks left (!! I have no idea where the time went !!) I’m getting more and more depressed.
Sure there are things that I miss about home. I’m very much looking forward to mum ‘helping out’ with the washing and cooking (:P), and I’ve really been missing people back home (and my dog!) but if I could extend my stay, I would. I remember thinking at the time I was planning – would I stay for a year if I could. Then I was a little afraid of the unknown. Now, if circumstances were different I’d be here for a year in a flash. Europe is the best. Everything is so close. Everyone is beautiful, and friendly to chat to. Exchangers are always up for fun. The food is amazing. The destinations are stunning, and so easy to get to… I could seriously go on for hours.
So whilst I do miss some parts of back home (i.e. sunlight, any resemblance of warmth, proper meat, and BBQ sauce which annoyingly you can’t get over here :/), the positives far far far far outweigh the negatives and all of this only adds to the fact that I seriously don’t want to go back!
If you’re thinking about staying for a year, do it! You won’t regret it, and I so wish I could.