Two facebook groups pretty much sum up exchange. One is 'being an exchange student is f******* awesome' and the other 'I never wanted to come back from my exchange'. Sorry Mum and Dad. Still don't understand why AFS doesn't do year and a half long exchanges. I'd so be in.
So before I have written about how fricking hard it is when you don't speak the language so well, when you feel isolated, when you are having problems fitting in at school with a group of people who have been friends for all there lives. Gosh there's a lot of things to whine about. Maybe another person would let all that stuff get to them and ditch the whole exchange shenanigans and return home. Then there's the type of exchange when hard times are few and far between and their life rocks from the beginning. I'm the one who suffered in the beginning - language, friends (I generally keep to myself I learnt, but I learnt that when you open up to people things really start to get going), day to day life, got me down and would have me secretly crying in the bathroom before school. Yes it can be bad. But being the internal 'don't panic' optimist I knew that is was a phase and as phases do, it passed. I won't deny the fact it was hard. It was bloody hard and although at times I wish I could have had one of those easy carefree exchanges, the harder the stuff the stronger person you become.
August was a turning point. Partly because by then was time enough to have got through all the hard stuff, and also with the new exchangers coming life got better. Before August I think I lacked meaningful friendships. With the language barrier those important conversations that you have with friends are harder and some people can get frustrated. Of course it doesn't mean I was a friendless hermit until that month, I had friends, but the level of friendship got deeper after August. We totally have the full out deeply personal conversations now and that's what friendship is about, the fun stuff and the deep stuff. Also in August arrived Giulia and Krista and although we've only known each other three months it could be like thirty years. Three different countries, three different schools, and we still spend heaps of time together. Today I spent hanging out at Krista's then going into town, meeting up with Giulia and getting our hair cut. (That's another story . . . )
Then there's the whole love life. Or lack of it! Yes there are some adorable Chilean boys out there; I get whistled at while out on the street (but that tends to be by old wrinkly scary men which is just plain EW!), and a while (as in 'back in the day') back that I became good friends with but nothing more. It kind of ended suddenly but for the better. It makes me sad to think of all the 'pololos' or 'pololas' that stay behind in Chile while their exchange student other half has to leave. There's absolutely nothing wrong with being single and happy. Better that there's one whole heart than two hearts far apart. And just for the record, just like in every country (except maybe Italy and Brazil) there are ugly guys, nice ones, and handsome ones. Chile varies a bit in that most of them are also short. (Hi Mum and Dad and my aunties and uncles, and AFS and all those other adults reading this and creepy stalker people, sorry for the necessary teenage gossip session!)
Word of advice to other exchange students: don't leave everything to the last two months! Looking at calenders with worried faces isn't nice. And having my mummy email me about plans when I get back just reminds me about how fragile and precious time is. At this rate I'll be an old lady tomorrow!
Hey folks! Please be darlings and leave me a comment. I know you're reading this.
I miss tasty cheddar cheese and fresh milk. But not too badly. Indian food too. Mum's baking. But only two more months, I Will Survive.