By Mariam Ali, Simon Fraser University, winner of the 2017 Stories from Abroad Scholarship.
It has now been two months since I came back from Europe, and five months since I finished my exchange in Strasbourg. I spent my summer travelling around the continent, visiting exchange friends in their countries and exploring their cities and villages with them. It was hard for me to come back to Vancouver after all of these adventures; I was crying as the day of my departure arrived and passed. I miss the lifestyle that I had in France, the short commutes, visiting other cities conveniently, being close to everything, the good food (especially the cheese). I also miss my exchange friends; I often watch them on Facebook as they graduate, travel and pursue new opportunities. Most of all, during these cold autumn days, I think of the time I swam in Lake Garda and the Mediterranean Sea, surrounded by blue water, a bright sun, colourful houses, sweet-scented flowers and happy people.
It took time, but I have adapted to life back in Vancouver, though settling back into my old routine was difficult. The reverse culture shock was strong and it took me a while to adapt to the fact that I couldn’t just walk across the street to buy cheese and baguettes. The friends that I have in my program, most of whom have also gone on exchange, have also helped me adjust by sharing their experiences. In addition, the sheer amount of work I have to do this semester classes keeps me occupied. On the bright side, my exchange experience inspired me to get more involved in school; I now volunteer for the Student Learning Commons at SFU, helping fellow students with their homework and writing. I will be taking a break soon from school and volunteer work; this winter I’m spending my winter vacation in New Zealand, visiting family there. As for Europe, one day I plan on going back to visit friends, maybe even to study and work.