Exchanging one world for another

KATIE THOMPSON

Nov.4.OP.Exchange student_ThompsonLeaving never scared me, or at least it never did until I had to say goodbye to the people I met in a new city that I now call my second home. From 2013 to 2014, I received an amazing opportunity to travel abroad and exchange my world for something completely new, different and exciting. I lived in a town similar in size to St. Catharines, located in a completely different part of the world. Situated in Nijmegen, Netherlands, I began my adventure with new friends and new experiences.

I originally chose to apply for the 2013-2014 Outbound Exchange Program at Brock University because of my desire to travel. However, it wasn’t until coming home that I realized the real reason that I had wanted to participate. I wanted, and needed, to evolve as a person and felt that to do so, I had to completely change everything in my life. I wanted to be placed in situations that were both exciting and frightening, amazing but uncomfortable. I believed that these experiences would ultimately force me into a new chapter of my life. I wanted to become a different person, and going on an exchange provided me with that opportunity.

It’s hard to deny that living in another country fundamentally changes you. Travelling as a whole changes you whether you want it to or not. It made me open to new experiences, to not be afraid of the unknown and to embrace the environment that was surrounding me at every given moment. Seeing is one thing, but experiencing it is another. I realized that life and the essence of travel was not about taking the best pictures or participating in every tourist attraction, rather, it was about embracing and recognizing the culture, the environment and the diverse people that I was surrounded by. Travelling abroad helped me realize how big, wonderful and beautiful the world truly is and how little of it I’ve actually seen.

My experiences abroad taught me so much more than what I could express or explain through any picture, sound or sense. I learned to love, to be loved and to trust. I learned to laugh at my own mistakes, to appreciate kindness that came from complete strangers and how to live without certain things that I was once so reliant on. I came to understand my wants, wishes and desires, and how you sometimes can’t attain everything you want in life within one place. I learned that I loved living in a place where the environment, the people, the culture and the language, were completely different. Most importantly, I learned that part of me will always be left behind in the Netherlands where I once lived and I wouldn’t want it any other way.

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