Tomorrow, my neighbour in my house, who also became my best friend, moves out and leaves to head off to Norway to hike. It’s at this moment I realise that I have met some of the most wonderful people, learnt some of the most incredible things and had the most unique experience, one that cannot be compared to any other in the entire world. I thought writing a 500 word blog post would be easy, explaining what I’ve done here and how I’ve grown as a person, but the task is not so simple; it is hard to explain what I’ve done, because every day was different, and it’s hard to explain how I’ve grown, because I’ve grown so much. It’s these thoughts that make me apprehensive about coming home, nervous about having to describe my experience in just a few words, because not everyone will want to hear about all the amazing things I’ve done. Except for those that I have met here.
I made a new family. We even have a name for ourselves: #erasmustwins, born on one of the many nights spent together, and it’s these people who have shaped and moulded me to become the person I am today. I remember leaving Adelaide in January, knowing about myself that I am so closed and removed from social situations, always nervous about meeting new people, thinking I would never make friends whilst on exchange because of how rude I appear to be, when really I’m just shy. Well, I could not have been more wrong. My international family know me better than a lot of friends I have at home. We are a network of almost seven different countries, diverse language and culture differences and all so accepting of one another. We have laughed and cried together and it’s these memories I will take home with me and cherish forever.
It hasn’t always been about the family though; a lot of this time spent here in Sweden has been a learning curve about myself. It’s a rare thing to find oneself in a completely different country, living there for six months with no one on the other side to welcome you or support you whilst you adjust to such a drastic change. And travelling alone is also a huge task, especially as a woman. I took the opportunity to go to Belgium on my own and there were so many emotions and thoughts running through my head as I got on the plane and flew towards a foreign country. I remember thinking, “what have I got myself into?” and wanting the pilot to turn the plane around to Gothenburg. The entire weekend, I had to remember that people are softer and gentler than what I thought, I couldn’t psych myself out and sit in my hotel room and wait for the four days to be over; I had to be confident. What travelling alone has taught me is that it’s exciting, deeply freeing, a confidence boost and empowering but also lonely and scary at times.
Being on exchange has taught me how to become a better person all around. I have opened myself up to challenges, I have accommodated to different situations and surroundings, I have fully immersed myself into a culture that is so different to the one I live in Adelaide. I have no regretted this decision at any stage, and I would fully recommend it to anyone considering an exchange in the future. It is a life-changing experience.