Letters From Exchange: Thoughts on the Flight Home

Man, do I have to pee. 

That’s it, that’s the end of my year (10 months, whatever) of exchange, of adventure. I flew to Oslo 10 months ago and had one of the toughest days of my life, sleep-deprived and hungry, pushing my body weight in luggage around a foreign country on one of the hottest days of summer. It was the start of a journey, one I doubt I’ll forget.

Since Oslo I have been to Copenhagen, Lillehammer, Glasgow, Edinburgh, Amsterdam, Milan, Munich, Prague, Berlin, London, Paris, Warsaw, Krakow, Bergen, Tromso, Nordkjosbotn, and Senja, some of those places a few times. I think I covered pretty good ground, if I do say so myself.

Phew, took care of that bladder.

So, it was my first time in Europe and I lived there, went to 17 cities, made 7 great friends, took 6 classes, battled 2 mental illnesses, met a whole new family, and learned so, so much about myself and the rest of the world.

Did you know the castle of Prague was once the seat of the Holy Roman Empire? Or that Poland once had borders reaching from the northern coast to the southern coast?

Do you know how it feels to fall in love with a city at first sight? I did with London, and now I know I’ll be moving back to Europe some day.

Do you know what it’s like to be scared to leave your own apartment? I had so much anxiety and depression from the constant darkness and ice last winter that I hated not being in my room, but now I know my limits, my strengths, and what’s really important to me.

Have you ever thought about your distant family, your heritage, and sought it out? And when you found it, did it just click like something that belonged in your life? This exchange was about me and my desire to learn about a country few ever show an interest in, so when my dad dug up relatives on Facebook related to me through my great-great-grandfather, I felt he was pushing himself onto my special adventure out of jealousy. I didn’t meet any of these people during the academic year – not because I thought they’d be weird, but because I’m shy and wanted to act independently. In the last couple of weeks we all met, though, and we immediately felt welcome and even connected to these people we share the loosest of ties to. I now have a whole wonderful Norwegian extension to my family, and that is invaluable.

I still have a long way to go. I know what I want in life: to be a successful author, to settle in London, to be at a healthy physical and mental state. Now that this adventure is over, I am starting my last summer before graduating, and with it the fight for all of those things.

I will be making the most of this summer and the next year, and the rest of my life. Live the life you love, and love the life you live. After all, I have many more years of my life ahead of me than behind me.

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