REFLECTIONS ON A YEAR ABROAD

 

 

                Erin McClintock, from Wooster, spent her 2013-2014 exchange year in Belgium and posted the following on her blog shortly before her return to the U.S.  It expresses well how many of our exchange students feel about their experience abroad.

 

 

            “So, here I am sitting in my room at night thinking about how fast my exchange year has flown by.  It feels like only yesterday I was being greeted by my first host family with smiling faces at the airport in Brussels.  My journey is about to come to an end, and now all I can do is live up every minute of my last few weeks here in Belgium….

            It’s all coming to an end.  The amazing people I have met and become so incredibly close with, I will soon leave and possibly never see again.  The exchange students that just arrive here in January, students whom I would love to spend more time with, I will soon leave as well.  My three families whom have taken me in as their won and treated me like their daughter for the past 9 months, I will soon have to say goodbye.  My Belgian friends who have shown me what a good night in Belgium really is, I will soon part ways with.

            None of this seems fair.  I have to leave my friends and my family after only 10 months of being here and then not know when I will ever see them again.  I knew leaving the states that I would see everyone after my year abroad.  Here, when I leave, I’m gone.  The next time I come back could be in 5 or 10 years; I have no idea!  This exchange is more than just learning a language; it’s about making friends for life.  Friends whom you will never really say goodbye to because you know that you will somehow travel to their country at some point or them to yours.  What I have here in Belgium is the biggest family I know…people from all over the world who, if I called them up one day asking for a place to stay, would offer their house immediately.  That’s what exchange students are, a family.

            Every time I think about leaving, I begin to cry.  I realize how much exchange has given me.  It has changed me for the better.  I look back and think about how I was at the beginning of my year up until now.  Now, I feel so much more independent and mature than I ever was.  I came here a somewhat introverted, dependent girl who just wanted to travel and see the world.  Now I’m outgoing, independent, world traveler and I’m ready for whatever life throws at me.

            Soon I will pack my belongings, my life.  Soon, I will say goodbye to all of my family and friends and cry my heart out wishing it wasn’t coming to an end.  Soon I will say ‘until next time’ to my beautiful Belgium.  And finally, I will return home to good old Wooster, Ohio and cry once again because I’m back with the people I love whom it was so hard to leave 10 months ago.

            We never win, us exchange students that is.  Always crying and always saying goodbye.  We end up in between countries.  We have different mentalities when we return, and people seem different than they use to.  Exchange does something wonderful; it gives students a chance to see the world in a different way, a better way.  For that, I will be forever grateful of my year abroad in Belgium.”