What I’ve Learned on Exchange So Far

Every so often, I get asked if I’m bored being in such a small town, like Krems. Genuinely, I would be disappointed in myself if I was. Sure, there are slower days, or days I need to sleep in (where I’m missing half the day,)  but I honestly am so accustomed to the mindset that I am not going to experience something like THIS again. I’m so young and school is not quite as demanding as it is in Canada, so I have the freedom to do and go wherever I please (ballin’ on a budget though.) Wise or not, I blindly went into this exchange, not having many expectations of the country, school, or the 6 months in general. I had a list of places I wanted to travel, but I never imagined to have the experience quite like I’m having.

There are quiet days where you go for a bike ride to the river just to get out of the house, and there are days where it is so busy, you question why you even got out of bed. There are simple weekends, where you go for lunch with your new friends and wander around the old town, and weekends where you venture off to another country and spend the weekend touring around a new country, soaking in a new language, culture, and lifestyle, not wanting to go home! My weeks here have been one extreme to the next, but there is nothing I’d change about it. It is such a sporadic lifestyle, something I am not accustomed to at all. I’m used to set schedules and planning. It took so much getting used to…having a different lecture schedule each week, and spending every weekend doing something different.

The most important thing I’ve learned so far is responsibility.

Responsibility: You are legitimately the only person that is responsible for you. Responsibility when you’re the far away from what is familiar is more than just buying your own groceries and remembering to hand in your assignments on time. Being away is taking every life lesson that has been instilled in your head since you were a toddler and applying it. Some things that would be insignificant to me back home because I have others looking out for me are so important here:

Figuring out a train schedule in a country where the first language isn’t English, mis-reading your plane ticket and almost missing your flight, having unexpected bus layovers in the middle of the night in an outdoor bus terminal…These are things that when I’m travelling, I would never have the responsibility for; I would just immediately turn to my dad and expect him to figure out what to do next.

You are completely independent from your family, friends, and school back home. You’re alone, whether you came here with people you “sorta” new. I live away from home to go to school, but this is in no way similar at all. Your family is always a phone call away, but not to bring you something from your room at home that you left there on the weekend.

There are some moments I sit back and spend too much time scrolling through social media to feel left out of my friend group back home, or a family get together, But you know what- this is what I wanted. I crave adventure, and trying something new. I love waking up every morning and realizing that I’m not in Waterloo, or Toronto, or even Canada. I’m on this amazing adventure. I have been planning this since I’ve been 19. And now I’m 21, and I’m finally HERE. I’m taking in every moment of this journey. My perspective on life has changed so much in such a short period of time. I’ve really learned to worry less about insignificant things, and focus my attention on things that actually matter. You can’t control the outcome of every scenario, so it’s okay to sometimes let it play out the way it needs to.

Travelling is therapeutic; It is throwing yourself off the deep end and all you can do is use the skills you were taught and try your best. You can sit in a restaurant staring at a menu with absolutely no idea what you’re going to order, but there’s worse that can happen. You can be walking around in the most beautiful city with no real direction of where you’re going , hearing a new language, but you’re so content because you’re with new friends and you’re having so much fun. You have two minutes to catch your train and you’re sprinting with your luggage across a new train platform, and you miss it by 10 seconds, but it’s okay. You miss your bus because your friends wanted to get McDonald’s for the bus ride, only to miss your bus and then learn you can’t even bring food on the bus.

Some people perceive travelling as an escape, but I think that’s an unproductive way to distract yourself. It’s a change. It a thirst for wanting and seeing more than what you have everyday, but being able to go back and have a more positive perspective and face situations with a fresh mindset.

My travel journey is far from over! I still have another month and a half of classes and exams, then I set off for another month and a half of backpacking. I have so much more of the world to see, I have so many more cultures to learn about and surround myself in, and too many languages to confuse myself with. It’s all about perspective my friends.


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