A couple of days ago one of my fellow Adelaidian exchangies posted an emotional status on Facebook about missing the lovely city, longing for friends and feeling like a stranger back home. I can empathise, and judging by the 107 likes – so can many others.
I could sense that his sadness runs deep and it struck a chord in me, all of a sudden I found myself typing an essay long reply.
This is what i came up with…words for him and all the others that feel like strangers at home.
I f**king miss Adelaide too.
But I f**king miss the people one hundred times more.
I think we all went through a post-exchange blues stage, and we can all relate to you on some levels.
I remember the night you and Helen got emotional about having to leave Adelaide soon. You talked about it changing you as a person, you leaving as a completely different one and this city having become your new home. I feel you. Even remembering both of your emotion that night, moves me.
I can only speak for myself that, I returned as a different person too. And although I can relate, I can only imagine what it would have been like to spend so much more time away from home, like you did.
But your words now, are hard to read.
The fact that you feel like you can’t be yourself saddens me.
So hopefully these few words will encourage you otherwise.
Imagine you had never gone.
Imagine you had never found the true Filipe. Met the loving people that surrounded you, opened up your eyes to a new way of life, and let you live without constraints.
Imagine if you didn’t know any better.
But you do know better. You now know, who you truly are, when you are happy – when you can be yourself.
You know the kind of people you want to be around, and what kind of experiences you want to share with them.
To be fulfilled. To be Filipe.
Having that powerful knowledge is worth a lot more than your memories.
Why? Because it’s the power to influence your future.
The guy who is probably still walking around the streets of Adelaide should be walking around the streets of Vitoria.
There’s only one place where you ‘belong’ – and that’s where you can be yourself… where you can be happy.
Maybe that’s the place you come from. Maybe not.
Maybe that’s around your oldest friends and family. Maybe not.
And sometimes that means letting go of people. Changing your environment.
If you don’t feel like you can be yourself around the people you’ve returned to. Maybe it’s time to start a new, to look further. just like you did in Adelaide.
I know it’s all well and good talking about this crap. Because it’s hard. But it’s even harder being unhappy.
are some things that have helped me get over exchange blues, maybe they can help you too.
- Telling people about my adventures: any time I get to tell someone about the adventures I had, the people I met and the beauties of nature I’ve seen, they’re eyes widen with awe. People ask me about where to travel to, just knowing the fact that I’ve inspired others to seek a country so far away is amazing to me. My step sister just returned from Bali and Australia, another friend Kathi who’s also studying at my Uni is talking about doing her exchange in Australia – and I’m kicking their asses to go!
- Surrounding yourself with loved ones. I missed my loved ones a lot, especially my family. I think once you go abroad for a while relationships take a test, the ones who actually care call and text, or even send a package with some goods to remind you of home. Coming home to those meant the world to me, and I seem to appreciate them even more so now.
- Appreciating how INSANELY lucky I am, to have gotten this opportunity in the first place. I could go on about poverty and what not. But I’m sure you get the picture. We’re lucky people.
- Meeting exchange students in Vienna, we have a Buddy Programme at our Uni where you get matched up with exchange students coming in – so we get to meet exchangies in Vienna and to experience some of their time here.
- Keeping in touch with the others. Everybody seems to get back to their own lives quite quickly, so keeping in touch can be quite difficult. But i love hearing from the others and seeing what they’re doing on Facebook. In Europe we’re lucky enough to be able to visit each other quite easily, but knowing I’ve got friends to visit all over the world is amazing to me.
- Dealing with people. One thing I learnt whilst on my exchange is having to deal with and put up with people I normally probably wouldn’t. And surprisingly you tend to learn things from these people too, you learn to appreciate them for being different and open yourself up to new views and cultures. You become more tolerant. So although some people don’t share the same views, or sometimes don’t agree with your choices…you learn how to deal with it and how to deal with them. And they shall learn too.
We’re all rooting for the true Filipe. And the ones who truly love and appreciate you are so too.