Exchange · Travel

“You must be excited”

I’ve stopped watching the date. The days pass too quickly and time seems to be slipping away before I can grasp it. On the 3rd of August, I will be leaving Sydney, my home, my family and everything I know, for a year abroad. Student exchange┬áis a part of my degree (International Studies) and once upon a time, it seemed like a thrilling opportunity for freedom, adventure, exploration and travel.┬áIn many ways, it still is that but as the date continues to loom, and I start to say my farewells, I’m constantly asked, “how excited are you?” The answer, is a complicated one, and not something I feel comfortable with just blithely replying ‘yeah, heaps’.

In truth, I’m a mixed bag of emotions. There is a part of me, which recognises the amazing adventure and opportunity I am about to embark on, and there are many things I’m genuinely excited about. But I would be lying if I didn’t acknowledge the vast uncertainty and trepidation I feel about leaving. In recent months, I’ve been paying attention to my home and just how truly beautiful Sydney is. I’ve realised just how much I will miss this beautiful place. And how uniquely beautiful Sydney really is. Coming back will be an experience in and of itself.

I’ve also been paying attention to the comfort I feel as I drive through the familiar streets near my home. How nice it is to feel warm, and safe and loved when you still live with your family. Knowing that you always have someone you trust and can be open with if you need. I won’t have that familiarity on exchange, at least not at first. I’m self-aware enough to recognise that exchange isn’t going to be a walk in the park. I know myself enough to know, that at times, my anxiety will get the better of me. There will be times when I will be on my knees begging to come home. There will be times when I miss those closest to me, so much that I won’t be able to breathe. Perhaps that’s negative, but I know that’s the truth. The flip side of that truth is that there will be plenty of breath-taking-in-the-best way moments as well.

Exchange isn’t just a step out of my comfort zone – it’s a damn 24hr flight out of my comfort zone. But I’ve realised that I’m becoming too complacent. I could easily stay within this lovely, comfortable bubble of mine, ignoring the dreams of travel and adventure and to settle for something closer, something familiar. That’s dangerous. The comfort zone, whilst lovely, cushy and safe, is not conducive to change and growth. I’ve often joked about the type of person who grows up in the Hills, settles in the Hills and dies in the Hills. But I realise now, that I could easily be that person.

So in many ways, this forced migration is an absolute blessing. By forcing me beyond myself and what I know. I have the chance to build and experience that is my own – like a beautiful sand mandala that will be washed away when it’s complete. Am I excited? No. I’m terrified. But this is necessary. I have to do this.

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