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Donnerstag, 30. Mai 2013



Without lying I can say that the number looms over me.
It induces both relief and dread—relief in that I will finally be able to go home, to return to where I feel most comfortable, where I can relax and not think, not keep myself in check at all times.
And dread, because my exchange year will definitely, finally over then, irretrievably and completely.

The exchange year… before I left, I would have said without hesitation that it’s the best decision anybody can make.

Now, almost nine months later, I can’t do that anymore.
I would still say it’s amongst the best decisions in my life, no doubt, but I have learnt, too:
Being ten months away from home isn’t everybody’s cup of tea, and I cannot generalize.
Even with my own year, I can’t.

In parts, this year has indeed been the best of my life. I’ve had the chance to do things I couldn’t at home—try new foods, have a very different school system, take classes they don’t offer at home, and there are countless more examples—and I’ve taken advantage of a lot of them, travelled to Vancouver and San Francisco, took part in challenges and lived with a family different from my own.

There were however moments I would count amongst the worst of my life.

Sitting alone in my room during two months of long, lonely afternoons, being scared of my host mother, later missing my parents and friends and people who understand me seemingly effortlessly, to whom I don’t have to explain myself, who don’t bat an eyelash at some of my quirks and who answer my apparently endless barrage of questions—that was tough. That was hard.

Both have changed me, the good just as much as the bad, and that is startling.

It’s not that I didn’t think I would change. I didn’t know how, but I expected some sort of fundamental change, something blatant, obvious, a new person.

Instead of becoming somebody new, I feel like I have become more like myself. I feel different and yet the same—which seems to be a contradiction and yet is my feelings in a nutshell.

I am still the ‘old’ Julia—irritable at times, with an insatiable thirst for knowledge, an eye for detail, and an inability to say ‘no’. I’m still eager to volunteer knowledge and don’t mind helping other people, explain things to them. I still enjoy solitude, as long as I’m not lonely, prefer reading books over crowds on most days.

The changes are more subtle than I anticipated, more subtle than the book worm undergoing metamorphosis into a ‘party animal’. It doesn’t work that way. Or at least it doesn’t work that way for me.

If I had to describe it, I would say the exchange year has chipped away some of my childishness, leaving ragged edges behind I will have to polish once I’m back home—a process that won’t be easy or short, but rather painful and full of setbacks and feeling misunderstood and angry.

But nobody said growing-up would be a cakewalk, and that’s the change I’ve undergone here. I’ve matured, faster than my friends back home, faster than my peers here.

I had to learn to make decisions, to handle my money, to organize my time. There is no mother who says, “Close your laptop and go to bed.” There are no parents peering over my shoulder to see how far I’ve come with my homework.

What it has taught me is that I am definitely not ready to live on my own. I make the wrong decisions; read books when I should go to bed, write my own stories when I should be doing homework or be learning.

I miss my stable schedule, the rationed time. It has taught me that if I have too much time at my disposal, I will waste it, by reading, writing, playing games.

But it has also taught me that even if I don’t pay attention in school, I will still get above average marks, that I should trust my mind not to let me down. It has taught me to relax and just let some things be, accept them as things I can’t change.

I have learnt that sometimes it is better to swallow down your own opinion, even though that definitely is something I still struggle with a lot of the time, that sometimes it is better to remain quiet. But I have also learnt that nothing will change if I don’t speak up, that my situation will remain unchanged unless I seize control and actively try to change it.

Instead of the radical change I expected, I got what I needed:
Insight into my own mind, into how I tick, how my body reacts.
I know now that my mind rebels at stagnation, it turns on itself, making me miserable and lethargic.
I need entertainment, constant action where my mind has to perform, where it is pushed to its limits.

I have also learnt that there is only so far I can push myself out of my comfort zone—but that that limit is a lot farther away than I assumed.
I have learnt I can accomplish almost anything as long as I try and don’t give up, as long as I believe in myself.

I may not have found the closest of friendships here, but that is not the way I work. I need a certain degree of freedom, and I am happy with the friends I have found.

The time I had here was amazing, the good definitely outweighing the bad, but I am ready to go home.

And I may not have made the most of my exchange year, but I have gained enough to be satisfied, to say, ‘Yes, for me it was worth it.’

There is no easy way to determine whether an exchange year is the right thing for you. All you can do is try, and be confident enough to admit it if it’s not working out.

There is no harder decision, no situation more complicated than deciding to go back home. I was too scared to call it a day and return after two months, and for me it has worked out. But I admire the people who can do that, who can ‘man up’ and admit that this is not their thing, because I can’t.

If I had the choice, I probably would do it again. But first, I have eighteen more days to enjoy.


  1. Ich hab immer an dich geglaubt, du schaffst das!!

  2. Ich bin so stolz auf Dich, meine Weltentdeckerin ♥
    Hugs and kisses

  3. You are amazing !
    I'll be there to help you polish if you want me to :-)


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