It’s the nearing the end of April and in turn, nearing the end of a semester abroad. With my mind quite firmly set to “analytical mode” as the last flurry of assignments begin to come into focus, I’d like to present a little diagram which I feel pretty much sums up the experience of being on exchange.
At the start of the curve is the enthusiasm of being somewhere new – of that long needed break from the drudgery of law school readings about lawsuits involving tainted oysters and snails in beer bottles. You meet a bunch of new people also on exchange and its great – over the course of the next few weeks there are plenty of get-togethers, and lots of travelling and exploring (one of the great advantages of a city campus no doubt). You start building friendships and bonds over terribly planned but immensely fun road trips and spontaneously put together parties. Classes have just started and the workload really isn’t that bad and perhaps not that different (or even lighter) than what you would get back at home.
Then, there is inevitably a dip somewhere. Mid-semester assignments suddenly emerge from the fray, and nights spent in the library sustained by caffeine start to reconfigure your sleeping patter to something that even most nocturnal animals would find hard to comprehend. Of course, this also tends to mean most of your other fellow exchange students are also bogged down with assignments as well. On top of this, there may or may not polar vortexes. Your Facebook newsfeed becomes a startling contrast between snow filled streets and pictures of your friends back home relaxing on the beach on a warm sunny day. A really good friend has their 21st birthday and you are a couple thousand miles away. A little homesickness starts to kick in.
But then hey, you survived your mid-semester assignments and submitted then (barely) in time. And then all of a sudden it’s time for Spring Break – who knew that one day you would actually need a break from exchange? Regardless, it has come at just the right time. All of a sudden, your enthusiasm has come right back. You meet a whole new bunch of people, get to travel and explore a whole new place. You come back refreshed and energized and guess what? Your mid-semester results are pretty good. On top of this, the weather is starting to warm up – the Spring semester wasn’t some terrible joke. You spend a lot more time outdoors. The next batch of assignments aren’t really that bad and perhaps it’s just too nice of a day to really be worrying about them too much anyway. You get to see the national mall lined in a sea of white and pink and as touristy as that may be, it is still pretty cool.
Then just as things just seem to settle in nicely, you are reminded that the end is drawing near. Email after email will provide you with checklist after checklist of administrative loose strings to tie up and check off. You start to wonder how you are going to fit all that stuff you bought back into your suitcase. The possibility that you might actually miss your charmingly messy dorm room begins to dawn. But at least you can start making plans for those few weeks left in your visa to really start travelling and exploring the country which delays the goodbyes for a few extra weeks.