The beginning

It was an exciting prospect. I really wanted to try it for many reasons, but while it kept alive in my mind it was pretty much dead in reality. At least, not until recently, when an opportunity opened up for me.This was one of the reasons why I chose my university. They offered me an opportunity to pursue my dreams and I applied.

I applied for exchange.

While I thought it would be exciting, I realised during the process that it was a lot more than looking forward to it. Along with the anticipation came stress and anxiety. It was something new. Previously, whenever I wanted something, I was always so sure that it would turn out well and that I would enjoy it.

But not this time. This time I found myself stressed over many things. It wasn’t just the tedious admin work I had to go through to apply – I was worried about survival, about really being alone out there, away from familiarity for six long months. I was anxious because truthfully while I can do most things on my own, I cannot cook. I didn’t (and still don’t) have the kind of money I needed and there were so many things to consider. Heck, I was even worried about homesickness because in the last semester that I was staying in dorm, I actually missed my family sometimes. Everything was really new to me and naturally I had to learn to handle it on my own. It didn’t help that it hit me how I’d be celebrating my 21st birthday on my own there. The stress that piled up on me gave me many doubts and apprehension despite having wanted to study and travel overseas.

To me, it was a bold leap of faith when I applied and clicked ‘submit’. It took me a lot of courage coupled with apprehension and fear to scan through my document and submit it. I didn’t want to think about it anymore.

Yesterday, I received the news – the application was successful. I’d gotten the university I wanted and I could go. I could match my courses and I could finally do what I’d always wanted to do.

However, I was gripped with the fear of the lack of companionship. I applied there without knowing anyone else who had applied and that pretty much meant that I would be going on my own until I made friends with others. Up till now, even though I went overseas alone before, I had been surrounded by people whom I knew and trusted. This time, it was different. I was distressed and couldn’t yet trust myself to live on my own in a foreign place.

I was also concerned about monetary issues – would I pursue my dreams at the expense of my family? What if something happened when I was not around? I pretty much rely on my best friend for support and originally we had wanted to go together, but she changed her mind because of some reasons. The whole process became an adventure to me and this is only the starting point.

There were other concerns such as falling ill, accommodation and adaptation. I fall sick easily – especially the flu – and when I do I become really ill and in my opinion I become a writhing mess. When I fell sick last December with high fever I couldn’t stop shivering in a 36 degrees celsius weather and I went all limp and weak. Overseas, it’s all about being independent, so what I would do would be to get up and go visit a doctor. It would be difficult when I’m not in the right state of mind. 

So I was constantly vacillating between conflicting emotions and couldn’t for the life comprehend why I couldn’t just go for exchange without the blink of an eye. Of course I was looking forward to it – I want to rent a car and drive around and explore the area. I want to visit the igloo village and the icy places and ride a sleigh pulled by reindeers. I want to try their food and experience their culture. I want to go way up to the place I’ve always wanted to visit and soak in life there for a few days. It’s totally different from where I live and it’s thrilling. 

I have to learn to cook. Generally I have dexterity in doing things that require attention to detail, but although I have cooked before, I can only really say for certain that I can cook egg dishes well. After all, what can go wrong with eggs? But if I learn I want to learn to cook soup; I want to learn the dishes that I love to eat, the ones my grandmother lovingly makes for me everyday without fail. The ones I missed eating when my family’s maid left. The ones that remind me of so many things.

In retrospect, that’s what exchange is all about. It’s about learning and doing something new, exploring new lands, learning to become independent and finding your own identity, and doing things you normally wouldn’t do. It’s a journey to self-discovery. It’s the time when you let your free soul go and you bask in the renewed freshness of life. It’s the time when you step out of your comfort zone and be daring.

So yes, never look back. There are a few reasons why I chose the country of destination. It’s right beside the place I really loved when I went on a school trip. It’s in a region I want to experience. It is a place I’ve wanted to go so screw the idea that it’s mainstream or that it’s popular in school – it’s not about exclusivity but about fulfilling dreams. Also supposedly safer, I hope to make good memories out of it.

It’s only the start. A long journey ahead awaits me and perhaps I’ll document this whole process of going for exchange, but for now I will take it one step at a time and pick things up along the way. There’ll be lots of exciting changes that I can’t wait to experience.

The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.

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