Exchange provides amazing opportunities. Living fully immersed in a new culture, making new and life changing friendships, travelling each weekend to new and exotic locations, growing up, helping others ( I had to teach another boy how LITERALLY CRACK AN EGG INTO A FRY PAN TODAY!) and coming to the realisation that you are a real, fully functioning adult that can actually take care of your self out here in the big bad world.
One bit I’ve found tricky is acclimatising to expectations and the norms of society. Everyone else is living to this set of unwritten rules that I’m not privy to. I have to trail and error my way through interactions until somebody calls me out or I get a reaction that sets to alter my behaviour for next time.
One thing in which I was totally out of my comfort zone was my first exam in Sweden. Firstly it was 5 hours long which I thought was ludicrous but other than the basic info about exam requirements I knew nothing about this situation and what to expect. It seems it was just expected that you knew;
- You had to sign up to sit the test
- The exam venue location which was off campus
- That you needed to bring food and drink as the exam went from 2 till 7 with no breaks
- That you required a form of ID and your university card was insufficient
- The amount you were supposed to write for each mark allocation
(As our largest essays are 10 marks at CSU I expected we write about 3-4 pages for it but upon further reading into the questions and already answering the first 10 pointer I found essays worth 40 points! What are you supposed to write for 40 points!! How much information is required and to what depth! 40 points is ridiculous!!!)
All these were things that without Swedish friends I would not have known (and with the marks thing still don’t really know). It’s like you should receive a handbook upon arrival in your host country titled “(Insert the name of your country here)’s social cues, norms, values, expectations and requirements for a fun and pleasant stay”. That would of been something I would have invested in.
But just a quick update on me. I’ve run out of clothes that smell like home so that brings on the homesickness feels something chronic. It’s Autumn here in Vasteras and it reaches a max of 6 degrees during the day but not to fear as I have acquired some winter boots and a big sleeping bag looking winter jacket, and they’re already my constant statement pieces – being black they go with every outfit! I have alot of spare time on my hands due to the inability to endure outside for long periods of time so my room has never been cleaner, my studies are well and truly up to date, I joined a gym and go every day #endorphins, I constantly escape to such exotic destinations as Barcelona, Munich and London (and for 35 euros return to London how could I refuse), I spend my time actively planning future trips whilst also creating mini movies about my getaways where I am the star.
I’ve set up a routine which makes being away from home easier, especially with everything continuing on whilst I’m away like my friends graduations, 21st birthdays, milestones, but mostly I just miss the everyday activities like tea with my girls, watching bad TV with my mum, playing with my dog (which has now become 2 dogs as one was acquired whilst I’ve been away). I hate missing out on life that people are continuing to live despite me not being there – selfish I know – whilst they’re probably wishing to be in my shoes travelling every weekend and living a totally new life (at least for a little while).
Exchange can be rewarding but it’s also hard. We will all have our own way of dealing with the changes happening in our life both inside and outside our control. Just don’t think it’s a walk in the park as the homesickness really gets you.