In the same way that moments in your life become memories, my study abroad journey seems so far away. There’s a part of me that can’t believe my exchange is over. I almost feel like it was all a dream.
But it happened. And I’m so glad and so grateful that it did. It changed me. It changed me for the better and in some ways, I still sty the same person I was before. Pictures and videos are powerful things. They hold our memories in a moment of time so that we can go back and reminisce on what it was like.
From the summer before my first year, I began to work towards study exchange. I worked so my grades would be eligible, I saved as much as I could ( I didn’t have a job) from what money I got each day. I pestered the international office as much as I could to find out if there was anything else i needed to do and it payed off.
When I went on my study abroad journey, I learned so much, so I’m going to list what happened and how that affected me
I went to a completely different place that was miles apart from home.
I went to a new place. It was my first time ever being in North Carolina. It was my first time being in the south of the States. I was forced to, well not forced to, but it was a necessity, look up information about UNCW and Wilmington. I looked up all the information I could about what would become my temporary home for four months. Anything I found interesting, I wrote it down, and the more I found, the more excited I got.
I lived by myself for the first time
This was the first time I was independent living away from home. I think I mentioned it before but from the time I was staying at school. I’ve always commuted from home. In my country, It’s common for students to commute—we’re on a small island and it is more efficient to commute than live on campus. Because of this, I had to learn how to live by myself and with a roommate for the first time too. I had to learn how to operate by myself, I had to learn what encouraged me and how to figure of problems by myself. I had to decide what choices to make. Some choices were relatively easy for me as I had been doing a lot of it form before.
In general, I started fresh.
I was in a weird situation. I didn’t get the chance to do a full year for exchange so I did one semester instead. What made it more difficult for me was that I entered in the spring semester instead of fall. Although there were some spring admits, it wasn’t the same as fall admissions. Unlike the fall semester, spring orientation (for me at least) was one and a half days (a fun introductory session, and a full day of seminars) and it was specific for the International Exchange students. I came in at a time where a lot of people had already made friends, or at least had somebody they recognised.
It wasn’t a bad situation, I had a great time, it was just a bit weird- I had my friend group from back home and although I was a second year, I felt like a freshman again. It’s not like I had transferred there permanently either so making friends was difficult. Plus, a lot of the people I were around were generally older then me. Some of them had interests that were way different from what I was accustomed to and a lot of the time, I was a bit scared about asking people to do things with me.- I didn’t want them to feel like they had to help out the new, quiet exchange student. It’s only towards the end of the semester that I got a lot more comfortable with people, and we found ways to hang out. If there’s one thing I wish, not regret, is that I could’ve been more open and friendly at the beginning. But that’s who I am- it takes a while to get used to new people and I was in a new environment and learning new things so I don’t feel too bad about myself.
I had my ups and down that semester, funny enough I was never homesick. Well I was but only for the food, I was tired of the bread stuff by the second week but I cooked and found restaurants and the other dining hall on campus so it turned out good. These are memories I would always cherish- even if I didn’t come across all openly ecstatic. I really enjoyed myself.
Who knows, maybe I’ll create a scrapbook!