Everybody keeps talking about how difficult a high school exchange year can be. And you know what – they’re absolutely right. It can be very challenging at times. However, nobody ever seems to tell you that homesickness and cultural differences might not be the hardest things you will face if you decide to spend a significant amount of time abroad.
Because really, what I found to be the most difficult part of my exchange year in the beautiful state of Indiana, was leaving it behind. There was so much I had to abandon on the 7th of June 2016. Leaving my wonderful friends and the people who became my second family sure wasn’t easy. But it was more than that. I had to leave my home and I wasn’t prepared for that. It still feels like somebody forcefully ripped me out of paradise. But not only did I have to leave those great things and people, I also had to leave an idea. I had been looking forward to my exchange year for so long and now it was over so suddenly. All I had lived for, for the past two years was gone. It was like I didn’t pay attention for just a second and it somehow disappeared.
That day, when I was standing at the Indianapolis airport, hugging those amazing people goodbye, my heart broke. And it didn’t just simply break. It shattered to pieces and I have not yet – after exactly 100 days – found a way to make things right again.
I never regretted my exchange year. Not until I left. For the first time I asked myself if the pain was worth it. Life would have been so simple and painless if I had never even left Switzerland. Now I am in Switzerland again, but it just doesn’t feel the same anymore. I used to be in awe about this beautiful home country of mine. I loved everything about it. The mountains, the calm orderliness, the crappy weather, the amazing chocolate, the unique political system of direct democracy. I knew that everybody said that Swiss people could be difficult to deal with, but I never understood why. Until now.
Don’t get me wrong. I don’t hate Switzerland. I just really struggle with the idea of this country being my home. It just doesn’t feel right anymore. I hate how organized everything is, how it rains every day, and how you have to walk uphill all the time. The chocolate is still pretty awesome, but that is not something I couldn’t get in Indiana either. It just seems like all the reasons why I used to adore this country vanished. It’s like nothing could keep me here for much longer. I am homesick. And that is the most terrible thing ever. Not being able to fit in in the country you were born and raised is horrible. And it’s not like anything changed here. Everything is exactly the same, but it couldn’t feel more different.
It is like I am not home anywhere anymore. That is a reality that I struggle to accept. I feel lonely. Culture shock hit me full on and I am surrounded with people younger than me, who I cannot seem to befriend. They’re just not like me. They worry about fashion and history class and their boyfriends. None of those things really manage to bother me anymore. We have absolutely nothing in common and that is a very strange feeling.
Never in my life had I struggled to find friends before. I was pretty popular in elementary school and I made a lot of friends in middle and high school too. I was never the coolest kid at my school, but I was appreciated and respected for being very smart and always helping people out. When I started my exchange year it was only a matter of days until I found friends. I had the same lunch table since day two. I had friends in band and track and in all of my classes. Finding friends never appeared to be a difficult thing to me. But now, everything is different. I get along with the people in my class, but I can’t see those people becoming close friends with me. The age gap is too big and we don’t seem to have very many common interests.
I am generally a pretty outgoing and talkative person. That made things a lot easier during my exchange year and you would think that it wasn’t any different now. But still I find it hard to fit in. I feel lonely and I was so used to having people around me that I don’t know what to do without them.
So what am I supposed to do now? I was very well prepared for my exchange, but nothing could have prepared me for what came after. I guess it is just the price we have to pay. And if I am honest with myself, it was still more than worth it. I made great memories and met so many amazing people. Nobody can take that from me anymore. And that’s why I won’t give in. I will keep fighting for my dreams and nothing can stop me.