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Mittwoch, 23. Januar 2013
A person’s view of the world may change over time
I’m not ignorant. I’m well aware that there is a world outside of my thoughts, my expectation, my comfort zone. It’s just that sometimes, this awareness is at the back of my mind. When I start out into new territory, my view of the world is narrow-minded, focused inwards. I don’t consciously avoid thinking about other possibilities, they just don’t occur to me.
A lot of my ‘mind-broadening’ has happened in relation to my exchange year, changing my perceptions of myself and my actions. I first got the idea to spend a year abroad early in grade seven when I came across a flyer about the Youth For Understanding Committee, but since I was too young to participate at that time, the real journey began a year and a half later when our German teacher had us write an essay about the pros and cons of time spent abroad. During me research, the idea of studying in a foreign country was brought back to the forefront of my mind. I went on to apply to YFU, and it took the book ‘Handbuch Fernweh’ (Manual Wanderlust), which has an inventory of available exchange organization, for me to realize that yes, there are other organizations. YFU was in no way my ideal organization, as they have a as they have a low placement-application ratio, often times inadequate availability of the counselors and bad reports about both student and host family behavior, and still I didn’t even entertain the notion that it might not be my only option. As soon as I was aware of the fact that there are other organizations, I pulled my application and chose kulturLife, with whom I am now here. But while I had become aware of what I had missed in this instance, I was far from realizing that it this behaviour was a quite common pattern for me.
The next incident was only a few months later. I started blogging about my experience so far, detailing my reasons and my choice of country, and managed a glorious three posts before forgetting about the project. I never once looked over the blogosphere whether there was anybody in a similar position, and if not for a girl I now consider one of my best friends, I would probably still be living with this assumption. But her comment in early March 2012 on my blog startled me awake, made me look at the vast amount of blogs dedicated exactly to this topic. It altered the way I viewed my exchange year, and myself. It was an epiphany, as though she had opened a door I hadn’t even known existed, flooding my isolated mindset with the light of realization that I am not alone.
Still, while she opened the door to my room, I had yet to leave the house.
The world seems huge, confusing and incomprehensible when you’re 13 or 14 and planning something of the magnitude of an exchange year, and some part of me most likely was afraid of what would happen. I found two ways of coping; the first was not thinking or day-dreaming about what I would experience, which is something I actually managed and which worked (Note: remember my first blog entry about feelings? That’s the very same thing), and the second was flat-out denial. The months leading up to my departure seem surreal; I at least couldn’t believe I was actually doing it. My world had narrowed down to ‘now’ and Germany, and it has taken me months to break down the falls containing me in my own mind. I was stressed, started doubting myself when the slightest thing went wrong and suffered from panic attacks (Note: You might remember that, I blogged about it). The destruction of the last remnants of those walls seems to have happened only very recently, if the feelings of being lost, being left floundering are any indication. [I need to find my equilibrium again, which is not an easy task, especially if I want to avoid a relapse into the absolute focus.]
My progress certainly was not aided by my first host mother, who had incredible mood swings. I thought I had to suffer through that, not knowing whether her smile was genuine, being insecure about her liking me and always wondering what I had done wrong. In this case, my narrow-mindedness would have been a blessing. If I had had to stay there, any thoughts about changing the situation, only to find them futile, would have had the power to destroy me. But it was a curse, because the situation was changeable, and once again I owe Dorothea, the girl I mentioned above, that I initiated this change. (Note: As well as the vast support network back home, including lywe and my parents, but to stay with the theme of the essay, I have chosen to focus on her. So I want to extend my kudos, love and thanks to you guys right now.)
This series of experiences has opened my eyes to the way I cope with stress, unexpected events and change, and now that I am aware of what I am doing, I can use it to my advantage. The technique of focusing on the things I have and not dwelling on ‘what ifs’ and ‘what could have beens’ has been essential in staving off homesickness and making the most of my experience. It doesn’t always work, of course, but I think that I have been doing a pretty good job so far. Now that I can I can control my response to stress, it has also made me more relaxed because I don’t have to worry about blacking out or missing important things.
My world used to be just me, intersected only by my parents and to an extent my friends, although I have always been careful not to get too dependent or close to my friends. It takes me a long while to fully trust a peer, while I place too much trust in people I admire, whom I have a hard time questioning about the correctness of their behavior, words and motives. The exchange year and all that it entails, all the months leading up to it and surely the years coming afterwards, have ruptured my self-centered bubble, have shoved me out into the world and have forced me to re-evaluate a lot of things I have taken as a given.
It has permanently changed how I think, feel, interact with people, and I’d be lying if I said that I don’t like the way I view the world now, the way my perceptions have changed. Self-awareness and awareness of the world are two very powerful tools, especially when combined.
Okay, so that's it. That's the essay I mentioned so often, and I am pretty satisfied with it. 6/6 and "An eloquent meander through the past six months. You write fluently, clearly, poetically at times." It's basically 1,150 words of emotional psycho-analyzing.
I didn't really change anything, I annexed the one part in the [brackets] and the Notes that are written tiny, but I really liked it. It was a great pleasure to write it, and typing it up wasn't too bad, either. It's certainly better than lying in bed and worrying about tomorrow.
(Yes, I did look at my Spanish stuff. I also went through my Biology stuff. Wird schon schief gehen.)
If there are any jumps or breaks, let me know; I most likely missed something/skipped a line.
Have a good night!