Post – Exchange Blues

Post – Exchange Blues

If you are an exchange student and currently preparing yourself to go back home, I bet that you are now experiencing some kind of mixed feeling. In between your confusion about what things to bring home and what not, there might be a chance for you to feel disconnected to the reality you are currently in. Realizing or not, the place that is used to feel foreign and cold has becoming your new home, far away from home. Feelings do grow, either it is for someone, moments, or for a particular place. You might find your new self somewhere amidst the unknowns and this foreign place might have changed you, hopefully for the better.

But, time went by and you cannot stop the clock from ticking. Suddenly, it is time for you to go back home, to where it all started. Coming home sounds like one thing that we have always wanted to do while we are abroad. Japan, this odd yet beautiful country, has became my new home at that time and I was not tempted to go back home at all. I was already used to live and do everything on my own and the fact that I had to go back and live with my parents again kind of scared me at the time. It seems like I have built my new comfort zone and out of the blue, it was the time for me to get out of that line again. But, what can we do but to accept the fact that a chapter of your life has come to an end and it is the time for to start writing a brand new chapter by reflecting to any misspelled sentence and action you might have done in the last chapter. Facing reality means you just can not stay living in your cloudy days and feeling blue all the time because you have to prepare for your departure to go back home and adjust yourself to your old surrounding, again.

Nothing is changed, but you.

One of the quotes that really captures my transition of going back home is the one from the movie The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, “It’s a funny thing about coming home. Looks the same, smells the same, feels the same. You’ll realize what’s changed is you.” Nothing that you left at home is changed except your own self. Before leaving home for Japan, I told my best friend at the time, how I would miss home so much and how different It would be when I return. He said that nothing would change and he was surprisingly right. As I drove home from the airport, I found myself looking at the same building, same toll road, just like the last time I saw it. But, what differs the experience was my feeling. This old home feels so foreign to me, almost unrecognizable. I have to say that I was at my lowest at the time and still could not accept the fact that I am home and I just can not pause my life cycle and put it on rewind.

It went by like that for almost a month. It felt like those times when I first arrived in Japan, the feeling of loneliness and boredom, I found myself coming to that phase again. I realized that I needed to get out of these grey cloudy days and adjust myself again to the situation at home. It does sound a little funny how you have to adjust yourself with the place where you have spent most of your life at. But, as we all know, our lives are just a series of cycle and the wheel will always keep rolling so that they would keep getting in touch with the roughness of the road and make peace with it.

One thing that you should have known by now is the fact that nothing you left is changed, everything is still the same. Your experience abroad has brought yourself a little piece of everything that you did not know just yet back then. Everything you left physically stays the same, it just feels emotionally changed for you. After almost a year being a foreigner in a strange place, I used to live on the go and fast paced everything. And just after 9 hours of plane ride, here I am again, sitting on my living room couch avoiding the heat outside. No more snow shower pouring right outside my window in the morning.

After all, I guess we are just overwhelmed by the idea how colorful and unforgettable our life abroad was but seldom recognize the idea that coming home can be unexpectedly and emotionally challenging. Then, how do we overcome all these blues and try to adjust ourselves all over again? There are numerous answer to that particular question, but in the end, all we have to do is to accept the reality we are currently live in. Some people might not have any hard time adjusting to their old habit, but some do, including me. In the first month of my arrival back at home, I struggled to stop myself from telling everyone my experience in Japan again and again. There will come a point where your friends will be fed up hearing your stories and you will notice it eventually. Your life might have changed, but your old surrounding might not. This is your time to be more considerable to people around you and not to ignore the fact that maybe not all of your friends are interested in hearing your life changing experience. Try your best not to make the conversation all about you, ask your friends how they have been doing instead and give you two a chance to exchange experience and opinion.

Overcoming your post exchange blues should not be an overwhelming task if you know how to overcome yourself and your ego first. Your personal self discovery should not be the main topic in every of your conversation with friends or colleagues. I know how overwhelming our experiences might be but let us be more considerable to the people around you. Sharing is a good thing only if it is done in a right way. We might experience some kind of chronic homesick, it is not a bad thing at all when you can make peace with those reminiscent feelings and move on to your next chapter of life.

Photo provided by author




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Maudy is an undergraduate communication student at the University of Indonesia. Her passion in intercultural communication started as she was chosen to be one of Indonesian representatives to attend British Council’s Connecting Classroom International Education Expo in Taiwan back in her junior high school years. As one of ten ASEAN Nationals chosen to be ASEAN Foundation Full time scholarship grantees, she is now currently studying in Kyoto University as an exchange student under the Faculty of Integrated Human Studies. She was also chosen to be the representative for University of Indonesia to attend Seoul National University of Science and Technology International Summer Program in Seoul, South Korea last year. Beside her academic related activities, back at home, she mostly spends her weekend at Institut Français d'Indonésie learning French as she is interested in French culture. She also enjoys writing poems, personal thoughts, vegetarian/vegan food recipes, and her travelling experience on her personal blog.
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