One of the most difficult aspects of this experience is describing it and answering those “How was it? Are you having fun? Is it a blast?’ questions. They’re not easy to answer because it’s not so simple to explain or easy to convey the bevy of emotions that this process involves. Of course there are many amazing fun times, but there are also plenty of challenging moments that test you in ways you never expected. And so I’ve found it very difficult to answer those questions in the 5 minutes that people usually give you.
For me it was an incredibly enriching experience in which I not only met a tonne of amazing people and a handful of friends I don’t doubt I’ll have for life, but I also found myself too. Being removed from my culture forced me to recognize some of the cultural mechanisms that have shaped me and allowed me to see what was under them. And knowing you can survive in another country for a year is an incredible feeling 🙂
You get to the point where you’ve adapted – you’ve learnt to sleep through the train, how to balance the workload, what’s good at Goudy and how to ration your meal points, you learn that ‘how are you?’ isn’t an invitation to talk about your day but simply a hello, you’ve memorized the hours that montag’s open, you’ve built up a quarter collection for laundry, you adjust to driving on the right (well, the wrong) side of the road, you learn how to spell the American way and you even get used to the empirical system (well, not really…). You accept Skype as a stand-in for your friends and family back home, you create a network of friends and support in Salem – and then you leave.
No matter how long I’m here though, I can’t see myself ever getting used to American dancing & grinding! Words cannot describe… And now I’m going to have to adapt to not being the token Aussie on campus, I’m really going to miss ‘OMG I love your accent!’ and the irony of ‘ohhh I wish I had an accent’!
Willamette, thank you for the amazing exchange experience, it was enriching beyond words. And to all the people I met, it was a pleasure. If you ever venture down under I look forward to showing you my world, teaching you how to measure liquids, distances & temperatures properly and how to drive on the right (left) side of the road 😉
Until next time, Hoo-Roo.