I can’t believe that is is my last entry! And that right now I’m sitting in Heathrow airport awaiting my flight home. It’s so hard for me to describe my exchange experience because my words don’t do it justice. I’ve honestly had the most incredible time overseas. There are things that I have gained that I knew I would, like an understanding of culture (both Irish and Australian) and a newfound confidence and independence. What I didn’t anticipate about my time abroad, was how much I would learn about myself. By meeting a whole new group of people I’ve learned so much about my personality and how I interact with others. Saying goodbye to these people was the most surreal experience. My exchange friends were also my family whilst I was abroad and I spent every day with them. I’m going to really miss them. Before I left for Ireland, my best friend wrote a quote to me in a plane letter “you’ll come back the same but different”. At the time I had no idea what she meant. But as I progressed through my exchange I slowly began to understand that I’m still myself but my exchange has developed me as a person and given my experiences I couldn’t have received at home.
I was also amazed about how settled I became in Ireland. When I left I had a routine, I was comfortable and no longer missed home. At first I found it really hard that my family was asleep when I was awake and visa versa. But it meant that I learned to deal with crisis or moments of weakness by myself and then was able to reflect on it by talking to them when they woke up.
It was small things that made me realise how much I’d adjusted, like the fact that I no longer had to convert euros into Australian dollars in my head to see home much something was worth. That I started using similar slang to the people around me and also adjusted my studying methods to suit the Irish system. I was also surprised about how confident I became overseas. When I left for Limerick I had EVERYTHING planned. I created a document with flight times, maps of cities and how much money I anticipated to spend in each place. By the end of my trip I no longer needed to use these crutches when traveling. I took this a step too far when I took a weekend trip to Belfast and got there without any maps of the city and no idea where I was! Taking weekend trips has allowed me to leave my comfort zone and experience new things. I feel like less of a homebody now and I’m excited to get home and explore Australia.
Although I’m sad that I’m leaving a whole life behind, I’m excited to get back to Australia armed with everything I learned overseas. I’m mainly excited for the warm weather, Australian accents and avocado (Irish avocados are rubbish). I think what I’ll miss the most about Ireland is being able to fall asleep to the sound of rain, Costa Christmas drinks, being so close to a diverse range of countries and the people.
I honestly can’t recommend doing an exchange enough. Yes there are times where it seems overwhelming and daunting, but that moment when you realise that you have created a life across the world from everything you know, it feels fantastic.