Hi! It’s Lauren again. I have a flight booked. It is time. I am headed home soon and I’m not quite ready.
Before leaving, I had been worried about how I would adjust to the distance, the new people, the new culture. I was worried about the unknown and how I would react to it. But each of these worries was calmed by the reassurance that this would be a short-term experience.
Regardless of how things turned out– whether or not I liked it– I would be coming home in 5 months, back to normal life. “I can do anything for 5 months,” I thought. Worst case: I hate it and I come home. Best case: study abroad is all people say it is and I experience something great, life-changing, etc. etc.
I knew from the beginning that this experience would have a definite end. It was the only known variable. I did not know what Sweden would be like. I did not know who I would meet. I did not know if I would like it or them. But I knew that it would end.
But now it is the end and the end is very sad. It feels different than other ends.
I think the whole set up of study abroad creates a strange environment in which life just happens faster. You go away to a foreign country and live in an intentionally temporary world. All my friends here, this community, is temporary. This group of people will never be together again. We will all return to our home universities within the next month, and continue on our own paths. This world will be simply a memory— a shared experience, impossible to recreate.
There is a sense of urgency to adapt, and so we do. There isn’t any time to doubt yourself, your friendships, or your choices. It’s nice.
People talk about how study abroad is special, how it ~changes~ you, all the clichés. I don’t know that being here has necessarily changed me, but it has kind of changed how I look at life. It has put things in perspective.
Study abroad is like a short-term, test-run at life. In this bubble, second guessing yourself seems like a waste of time. Drama between friends suddenly seems so unnecessary. In such a compressed environment, you figure out what really matters to you, and what makes you happy. And it feels stupid not to live the life you want to live. In the rush of college and whirlwind of figuring out your life, it is easy to forget about yourself. And sometimes we need a reminder to do the things that make us happy. This semester has been my reminder.
But now this tiny life is coming to its expected end. My visa is about to expire, my lease is ending, and people are starting to trickle off back to their home countries. I am sad to leave this place and these people, but I am feeling so grateful for this experience. I am happy I came here, I am happy to have lived this little life, even if it was for only 5 months.
One last “Hej då” from Sweden.
This post was contributed by Lauren Voigt, a 2019 Global Ambassador majoring in human development and family sciences.
Don’t get left behind. Read more about Lauren’s experience abroad>>