When I first realized that I wanted to go on exchange, I immersed myself in research. First, I frantically read about all the countries I was interested in going to. At that point I had two requirements, I wanted to go to Europe and I wanted to learn a new language. After weeks of researching, I came to the conclusion that Austria was the right country for me. At the time, I didn’t know much about Austria other than stereotypes, including a love for skiing, beer drinking and the Sound of Music.
The next few months were spent convincing my parents about all the reasons why it would be beneficial for me to participate in an exchange year. I scoured the internet for blogs where they could read about how fast other exchange students learned the language, immersed themselves in the culture, and what the benefits of an exchange were for them later in life. I guess you could say that I was obsessed with reading about other people’s experiences.
When it was time to fly to Austria I was buzzing with excitement. I couldn’t wait to meet my new family and see my new home. Although I was excited, I wasn’t nervous. I had read in other exchange student’s blogs how you should have no expectations about your host country or family. I tried really hard not to expect anything, or have any ideas or plans on how my exchange year should be. I was completely open to new experiences. This lack of expectation for my exchange year helped with my nerves, and I think really helped me fit into with my host family and Austria.
Now I’m almost nine months into my exchange. I’ve made myself a life in Austria with a new friend group, family, language, and culture. One of my biggest obstacles in my exchange year was the language. At the beginning, I was so frustrated with myself because I wanted to speak and understand German so badly, and I felt as if I wasn’t learning it quickly enough. Eventually around December, I went to a Christmas party, drank little too much wine (which gave me a lot of confidence) and I just spoke without thinking too much about it.
That night something just clicked in my brain. I was so happy! Now, I understand almost everything, and while I still have problems with grammar I can speak my mind. Overcoming the language barrier was the last obstacle for me in feeling at home in Austria.
The last few months here have been amazing, I’ve really settled into my life. Sadly, however, it´s all slowly coming to an end. In less than 2 months I fly back to Canada. And I’m honestly so afraid. I feel like I’ve forgotten how my life was in Canada, and what my friends and family are like.
I’ve forgotten how I act around my friends and family and feel like I’ve changed so much since coming to Austria that people in Canada may not recognize me anymore. I have so many expectations for what life will be like again in Canada, how my friends will act, and how the food will taste, that even though I’ve lived in Canada for my entire life I still am afraid for what awaits me at home.
This exchange year has been wonderful and I would gladly repeat the experience. It has taught me a lot about the power of expectations and how they can affect a person’s life and ability to start from scratch all over again. Hopefully, everyone can learn about the power of expectations from my adventure in Austria!
This post was written by Sam Treacy. You can read more of her on her blog Simply Wanderstruck