The Post-Exchange Blues
Have you just come back from a semester abroad? I have, and here’s something they don’t really tell you in the pre-exchange info sessions – getting back to normal life after spending a semester or two overseas isn't easy.*
Here are a few symptoms of post-exchange blues…
After arriving at your exchange university, you might have seen Australia with rose-coloured glasses. We have the best beaches, best weather, best food – what is this?! I can’t get a Pad Thai? Or a falafel kebab? You don’t know what I mean when I say the word ‘shout’? I have to drink instant coffee? (Awful, I know).
After coming back to Australia post-exchange experience, the reverse is also true. I have to wait half an hour for my next train? This cheese is terrible! My bus is 45 minutes late? That big hill doesn’t look so big compared to the Alps near my uni. Oh! I think that man was speaking German, I’ve missed it! Why can’t I get a decent pretzel?
Yes, I spent my exchange in Switzerland – is it obvious?
Your Friends Don’t (Really) Care About Your Stories
‘Tell me about your trip!’ friends will ask. Polite, caring and genuine friends will listen for five minutes. Or ten minutes. Maximum. Let’s face it – how are you going to cram six-months of life changing experiences into a ten minute conversation?
It’s a universal truth too that no one likes that name-drop guy. That is, the well travelled, recently-returned person who has to mention ‘when I was in Prague,’ or start a story with ‘this time in Milan’.
Raspberries will be blown when you mention a location (and not the delicious fruit; five year olds would be proud). You’ll try to talk about a friend you met, a place you’ve been, etc, and they might interrupt with a ‘so-we-went-out-last-weekend-to-generic-club’.
Which brings me to…
Not Having Somewhere to Go/Something to Do Each and Every Day
When you’re back on home turf, it sucks out the adventure in your day-to-day life. You’re back to walking down the street and bumping into someone who knew you during your awkward acne days, or driving past that pool where you learnt how to swim as a kid.
These are all things that you might have craved when you were away, but the novelty wears off quickly once you return home.
No one is excited by my accent? Someone just said ‘youse guys’? I don’t have a trip planned this weekend? The closest country is at least a couple of hours of flight time away?
Exchange almost seems fantasy land: meeting new people, exploring a new environment, not having to work, getting to take interesting subjects and the results not counting towards your GPA…
As soon as that plane lands back home, real life hits you. What about those clerkship applications that you need to start thinking about? Or finding a regular job? Or getting reacquainted with your favourite spot in the library, only to find someone has claimed it while you’ve been gone? Or realising that you’ve used up all your electives on exchange and you only have compulsory subjects like Law of Business Organisations left to go?
*Note: Going on exchange may bring out the #firstworldproblems in you.
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