By: Arianna Curto
Like many others, I recently experienced the best six months of my life while on exchange in Australia. Although in the long run exchange may just be the best decision one could ever make, the beginning and end can be tough to adjust to. From personal experience, the feelings of homesickness and heightened self-reliance abroad was initially a challenge for me, as was the readjustment to life back home after it was all done. But I assure you, despite the ups and downs, it was all worth it.
Since starting at McMaster, I’ve been so excited to go on exchange in my third year. A part of my planning leading up to my actual departure included preparing myself to leave home and become more independent (this experience was my first time living away from home). I knew that being homesick was going to be inevitable, so I wanted to prepare for it; to make tackling it more manageable. The best way I found to heal homesickness, was staying busy and putting myself out there more. One of my goals for going on exchange was to push myself out of my comfort zone as much as possible. So, in the moments where homesickness was at its peak, instead of staying home and sulking, I made myself go out with new friends, go out into the city, and go to the beach, that sort of thing. One occasion, in particular, I remember really feeling down and just wanting to be alone at home. My new friends asked me to go for sushi and shopping along an outdoor strip. Although I was not really up for it, I went, and I am so glad I did. This day I met the girls that would soon become my best friends during my exchange! The first week was filled with experiences like this. I attended my residence building’s events and meetings went on exchange student excursions and spent lots of time getting to know people.
I knew six months was going to fly by (it did) so I knew I would regret wasting any time being sad. I did not want to remember my exchange experience as one that revolved around being sad and homesick. I knew I had to take this challenge head-on and put it to a halt so it did not get in the way of this amazing opportunity. A great way of achieving this is to be as social as possible. Having people and conversation in your life can get your mind off of things, and show you a new light to a situation.
Struggles with transition aren’t only reserved for the beginning of an experience as grand as studying abroad; the end is home to even more. Getting ready to leave a new place that you now call home, and saying goodbye to the amazing people that came with it, can be hard. Once again, I had to prepare myself to go back to reality, and face the familiar struggle that would be leaving ‘home’ again. Currently, I am still working on getting used to being back. It is tough at times, but staying in touch with people I have met makes it much easier. It isn’t really sadness, just reminiscing and nostalgia that comes in every once in a while. But I am so grateful that I am able to look back on the incredible times I had… because they happened! They should be reminisced upon.
I know this blog post may sound a little pessimistic, but believe me when I say I would go through the heartache of leaving home and the people I care about a million times over in order to have more experiences like this. Meeting new people, and rediscovering a new place in which will soon feel like home is the most exhilarating and important thing I have ever done, and I cannot encourage it enough. Change is inevitable, and not always easy, but it is so important for self-growth and learning. My final bit of advice would be for anyone that even has the slightest inkling to go abroad: do it! It is an experience you will not regret and will truly cherish forever. It really is the experience of a lifetime.
Arianna is a fourth-year Geography and Environmental Studies student, Faculty of Social Sciences at McMaster University. She studied for a single term at the University of Newcastle, Australia.