“What am I doing?! Why did I decide to leave my life to go to the other side of the world?!” Did any of you have this feeling a day before boarding your plane? I call it the Last Minute Freak-Out Moment. It’s the moment when all your bags are packed, you’ve said goodbye to all your friends and you suddenly realize… I’m really doing this. I’m going somewhere I’ve never been, to try to communicate in a language I don’t know and to emerge myself in that culture that I’ve never learned. No friends, no family, just me…
It’s such an overwhelming feeling that might stay with you even after you arrive in your host country. Then there’s that moment, half way through your exchange: THIS is why I did it. When you become friends with people from all over the world and realize they are not very different from you, when you can finally communicate effectively in your host language and feel a sense of belonging. When you realize, this is the best decision you’ve ever made.
It’s a process that feels more like a roller coaster: the “honeymoon” phase, the “I’m so tired of this place” phase, and finally, the “adaptation” stage. We, as exchange students, almost all go through it the up and down feelings of exchange. First, we are so excited to be in our host country, to learn about Canadian cultural norms, to see places and experience customs and foods. Everything is new and exciting. Then, the homesickness hits us, and most of the time, we don’t even see it coming. It’s that moment that you feel alone, you just want to speak your native language, eat your familiar foods, and be around people that understand you, without any language barriers. Lastly, the adaptation has begun. You learn to accept the different culture and it becomes part of you. You finally realize that you actually love “poutine” and hockey and the cold, rainy days (… well, maybe not so much the rain!). This is the best moment and the instant that feels like it lasts only a second. It’s that moment that you almost feel… Canadian. And this, unfortunately, is when you realize how little time you have left. By this time, you have to go back “home.”
The experience of studying abroad is like no other, and CSLI is a family gathered together by one common experience. It’s unique to those who dare to live “outside the box,” to experience the challenge and overcome it successfully.+
Article by Arianne Moran Matheus