What They Don't Tell You About Exchange

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Study exchanges are not all that glitters. Not in the ways you'd expect till it hits you.



I consider myself particularly adept at dealing with loneliness, or rather, more accurately - the condition of being alone. I prefer to dine alone, regardless of the wonderful company that I may enjoy, simply because I like to concentrate entirely on my food. I like watching movies in the theatre on my own. I have also mulled over the exciting prospects of going to a karaoke for a solo singing session. A close second to this would be hanging out with someone who really clicks well with me. It's not that I mind making small talk, I don't. I would only do that to find out if someone is a good match with me for conversation. When I chose to go on a semester-long study exchange, I wasn't afraid of dealing with going to classes with complete strangers or sharing a place with someone I have yet to know. They warned against stranger danger. They caution us on loneliness. They told us horror stories of homesickness.


'On cold winter nights,' they say, 'homesickness will hit you so acutely. You don't know when it will strike, you will cry in your bed and want to fly home immediately.' Strange, I must love Melbourne too much because it hasn't hit me yet. Or maybe I'm suffering from another strain of sentimental weakness.

The countdown is on to my flight back to Singapore. The sinking feeling in my heart is unmistakable. I know I've been dreading this day since the second week I was in Melbourne. I know this is the place I want to be, at least for a long, long time. I'm not in the least bit sick of it. It feels like home. What they don't tell you about the downsides of going on a study exchange: the final month here will feel like the last thirty days on Earth

I know, I exaggerate. But it sure feels like that.

I have a list of things to do, many of which include going to places I really want to go around Melbourne, the last meals I want to eat, the people I want to have a meal with before I fly, the promises I made that I am rushing to fulfill. The worst feeling? Knowing I don't have enough time to do them all, even if I were to pack everything into all the days left. 

I know. Melbourne's a plane ride away.
But the earliest that I will ever return is a whole year away, after I've graduated. Moreover if I had the cash, I'd fly to explore elsewhere.. it only made economic sense to maximize my travel footprint around the world. There are so many things I want to share about this whole self-authorized removal from home experience. I wouldn't exchange (what's with my natural gravitation towards unintended puns) it for the world. But one thing for sure that I learnt is to live life to the fullest, every single day of your life. Such a positive life principle can get tiring. But it will be worth it. Be kind, everyone you meet is a beautiful encounter. You will let a part of yourself be deeply influenced by them. So will they.

Melbourne has given me so much. Melbourne is home.

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