I’d be lying if I said it weren’t hard. You’re 17,063km from home, you’re taking five courses, you’ve just counted those 27 (yes, that’s correct) pieces of assessment for the semester. To make things worse, it’s 1am, the printer isn’t working and your first assignment is due at 9 am. Did I mention that it’s -17°C and you can feel a flu coming on?
It’s not some bad dream – it’s actually the start of something that’s going to be really special. I promise that the next week will be easier, and whole lot more fun. You’ll grab a coffee with those people who looked intimidating in the dining hall on the first day, you’ll speak to the person that sits next to you in your Science lecture and you’ll catch the bus down to Walmart without getting lost. You’ll go to the doctor, open a bank account, organise your room the way you’ve always wanted and eventually plan to have dinner with a regular group of people.
Fast forward another week. You’ve discovered that there’s absolutely nothing to be ashamed about hearing someone knock on your door at 9pm on a Saturday night and pretending that you’re not home so you don’t have to go out. You’ll smile and then go back to reading your book or listening to music. There’ll be plenty more nights like that. I promise that you’re not missing out on anything groundbreaking this time round. You’ll soon learn what’s worth your while in the plethora of activity that is exchange. Your personal time for reflection and restoration will become more important than it ever has before.
Whilst it might seem paradoxical, I need to further the point that your exchange is yours. Nobody else’s. You have the freedom to do as much or as little as you like, without feeling obligated either way. Go out for a drink and participate in that event. But once in a while, stay in. It’s just as important to take time for yourself as it is to socialise.
You’ll still miss both the people and subtleties from home. But that longing for home and familiarity will soon turn into a mere fondness, as you begin to enjoy life in a new city – wherever you may be. If nothing else, you’ll learn that you can live, and thrive, absolutely anywhere.