It’s hard to believe we’re approaching the half-way point in 2017-18 academic year! First semester is almost over, which means many of our students are reflecting on the first half of their experience so far. Alice, an AYA international exchange student from Italy hosted in South Carolina, writes:
It is always difficult to start. Take a moment to think of the trivial things from starting to study, or starting to read a book or starting to write, to the deeper things like starting a relationship or starting a new life.
I’m telling you all this so you know how hard it is to tell you what I’m about to say.
Three months have passed since I left.
It’s been three months, three months since I left everything and everyone behind. Three months since I left a normal life, to start a new one from nothing in a new country and in a language that’s not mine.
I am frequently asked, “how could you be so brave? how could you do it? I would never do it.”
But to those people who are wondering how I mustered up the courage to do this, I wonder, “how could you not do it?”
Think for a moment, aren’t you curious about what is on the other side of the world? Don’t you want to know how they live? Don’t you want to know their culture?
That is what exchange is.
It means sharing your culture, thoughts, knowledge, and laughter with others, and being able to receive it in return. It means being confused most of the time but loving every single moment of confusion. It means loving people as if you have known them for a lifetime, even though you have only known them for a short while. It means getting tested, reaching your limits, and pushing on, learning that you are much stronger than you thought.
Because this is what I’m doing, I’m testing myself, I’m testing my limits, and I’m changing. After three months I can absolutely say that I am changing. I’m growing up. I’m learning to know myself. I became more outgoing, I started asking myself questions about my future, who I am, and who I want to be.
And I want to thank my parents for every day that they allowed me to embark on a trip like this. I thank them immensely. And I admit it, I miss my family as I never thought I could miss them. I miss my sister, she is my rock. I miss my friends. And that’s normal.
Besides the new experiences, exchange also means this: missing someone so badly to the point where it hurts, but carrying on despite that, because you know the experiences and relationships you make will be worth it.