By Gigi Lin, Simon Fraser University, winner of the 2017 Stories from Abroad Scholarship and member of the BCSA Writer in Residence Team.
It’s been exactly 8 months since I had departed YVR for LHR. Half of that time was spent rediscovering myself traversing streets, alleyways, restaurants, stalls, courtyards, gardens … and for the other half, it was a beautiful summer in which the sunny days outweighed the rainy ones, and I made my place at an awesome company with remarkable co-workers. It was definitely a great post-withdrawal period spent as I slowly transitioned into “regular” life again.
I kept in contact with the friends I made on exchange, as there are so many different means of doing so nowadays. My exchange Uni: University of Bath, usually has June – September off, so undergraduates can work or travel during the summer. It was exciting seeing snaps and stories of all my international friends exploring cities I’ve so far, added to my bucket list. I’ve developed an appetite for travelling that may always be instantiated, but I’m glad this hunger was lit.
Being back home, I see beauty in everything. The many mountains and trails that I had once overlooked, seem so much more fascinating. I’ve also taken the initiative in planning trips and looking up places that many have raved about, all in my own city. Being on exchange has made me realize that there doesn’t always have to be “new” places or people around me, to explore.
Though I’m glad I was able to have a good placement where I very quickly fell in love with my organization, my team, and adored my lunch table, there are some drawbacks to coming back right away after exchange ends:
- You won’t be able to travel with your new friends accumulated through the months of exchange. This doesn’t mean I stopped having breathtaking adventures, but I definitely had to put a pause on ticking off beautiful countries on my bucket list.
- You experience a time-lapse as you realize your weekends will be made fun, in your own hometown. No more arriving early to airports to get through customs, adjusting and re-adjusting for new time zones, or budgeting for time spent lingering in souvenir shops, thinking of all the little gifts and peoples back home.
- You realize that you’re grateful for all those little moments when you held your phone up snapping away, as you’ll probably reminiscence over, once or twice. Those pictures have added about 7000+ in storage and are now quietly tucked away in your photo library, ready for next time’s show-and-tell.
- Know that the jetlag will take a while to subside! I flew back to Vancity on a Friday, and started work on Monday. I distinctly remember being extremely excited to start work, but the jetlag really hit during those first few weeks. Take it slow, and know
- that it’s going to take a while to adjust after being 8 hours faster than everyone else, for the past 4 months.
Know that not everyone will want to hear every single train trip, plane ride, or restaurant meal you’ve consumed during your exchange, but I’m glad I had a group of friends willing to listen to some of my
stories. It definitely felt a bit strange having to travel through cities not of Georgian architecture, or walking for more than 10 minutes to meet up. I’m also really thankful that they were willing to look at all the pictures I’ve thrown in their face, as I was very proud of my photography skills abroad…
Now that I’ve finished 1 month at SFU already, I’m excited in realizing a more open and optimistic disposition in myself. This was evident when I decided to step up to host a safety presentation in August to my Department. As I worked in an area that had the Directors and VP’s of the organization, it was a terrifying decision – but I wanted to take initiative and continue furthering the skills I had attained abroad. Prior to exchange, it was easy for me to be timid or less outspoken, but having seen so much in my time away, I realize that there won’t always be opportunities for second chances, and if you don’t speak up for yourself – will anyone else? As a global ambassador, I want to continue being dependable, driven, and inquisitive in not only the values I hold when building professional and personal relationships, but also to explore learning opportunities as I add to my repertoire of life experiences.