maanantai 19. elokuuta 2013

A year ago

It was today, exactly a year ago, that I left my home and started the best year of my life. It wasn't always a bed of roses, it wasn't easy, but without a doubt it was the richest, the most experience-filled and the most beautiful year of my life.

I've been back home for 49 days now. It was definitely more difficult to come back home than it was to leave. The hardest part was leaving everything, a new home, a second life. When I left Finland a year ago, I knew everything would be the same when I'd come back and the people would still be there. Then, leaving Belgium, it wasn't the same at all. A big part of the closest people to me were exchange students from the USA, Norway, Switzerland, Ecuador, Moldovia, Estonia, Mexico etc, And I know we will never be together in the same way again, as a group, going through the same experience. But even so, I'm happy that despite the distance these people are friends for a lifetime.

I also left behind my belgian family and friends. On my last night at home, they gave me a key to the house to take back with me (I had had one before as well), as a symbol of being welcome whenever I wanted to come back, of having a second home. I'm trying my best to keep in contact with all my friends too, and with some of them I feel like we've only become closer after I came back. I can talk to them about anything, and it makes me happy to know they're waiting for me to visit and they'll always be there for me, even from another country.

The hardest thing about coming home was returning to reality. Life in the middle of Europe is a lot different from life in the middle of Lapland. I still had a month of the holidays left, but all my friends were working or abroad on holiday. I didn't know what to fill my days with. It was okay whenever I kept myself busy but the moments alone at the house were frustrating, thinking about how lucky I used to be being able to call a friend and catch a train to Brussels.

It's easier now, school has started, my days are scheduled and I'm back in the routine. Still, it's hard to adapt myself back to the nordic mentality. The mindset is completely different here, and not always in a good way. I've learned to appreciate my friends here more than ever, the way they understand me and are there for me no matter what. And as is said, you also kind of learn to see who actually is your friend, the people who stay there, to whom you still mean the same, despite not having talked or seen each other for ages.

Before people go on exchange they're always told not to "leave one foot behind", to really try to be mentally present in their host country. I think doing that is more difficult now that I'm actually back. I really feel like having my two feet in different countries, and I guess I'm driving my friends crazy with talking on and on about Belgium..

I know that it's no use regretting, and I know I enjoyed my year to the fullest, but still now that every day there feels so special when looking back, I feel like I wasted days at home, being sick or unsocial in some other way. Then again it's a process, and it's not possible to go through it being happy and at your best every day, just as it's not possible during a normal year either. In my memories I will cherish every moment, every dinner with my family, every conversation, every school day, every hangover. I would do anything for just one night with everyone again, but knowing I have a place to go back to makes it all better.

I've been thinking about what to do when I finish school here, and at the moment I have several options in Belgium, we'll see what the future brings. I'm lucky to be able to visit for two weeks already in october, I'm counting days (50 left!) I know I can never go back to being an exchange student, but as they say, when one door closes, another one opens, and this experience certainly opened a lot of them.

Mon coeur reste en Belgique.