Have you ever tried something extremely different?
Something that makes you confused?
Have you ever achieved your dreams changing completely your point of view?
Have you ever been an Exchange Student?
Now imagine that tomorrow you have to go away. You have to leave your family, your friends, your school, your pet... you have to leave everything to go to another country, where you don't speak the language. Where you don't know the culture. Where you don't know anybody. Where you don't belong there, yet. I think it's possible.
I never said it's easy but it's possible and many other people can say that as well.
I did. And it changed my life.
Now, I don't want to focus the attencion on me. I just want to tell a story.
A story of an Exchange Student from Italy who went to Austria to live abroad for a year.
My new life started the 7th of August when I had to take my flight to Vienna. After more than a year I still can remember that first day. It's unforgettable, obviously.
As soon as I arrived I had to face a new life in a new country with a new host family with a new language and with new people. When I left my father at the airport I didn't cry. I knew I wasn't going to fight a war. I knew also that I wasn't allowed to meet him for a long time if not through the Internet, which is not the same thing as meeting somebody in the real life.
I didn't cry but I'm a human being and have feelings too. I felt sad and happy at the same moment, I can't describe exactly what I felt, but it was something different. Probably the beginning of a new me. I don't know.
At vienna airport a special fact happened to me. Another Exchange Student came up to me. She introduced herself, making me a little bit confused. She was the most beautiful girl I've ever seen. I felt surprised that she spoke to me but when I understood who she was everything was clearer. Unfortunately our ways had to divide immediately. My new family was waiting for me and I had to go away with them. Every time I think about this I feel ashamed and sorry for what I did. I had to leave her there alone. I couldn't even ask her her name.
Anyway I was sure I would have met her again.
So, new mom. New dad. New siblings. New House. I felt so glad that they cared so much about me, as I really was their son. During the year I started considering myself a member of the family. Even if I come from a completely different place I loved them so much and I still do. Obviously I'm talking about my second host family too.
Anyway the first week I rimained with them for just four days. I still can remember the first meal we had together. It was something completely different. Useless to say that I loved it. During these four days we did a lot of stuff. They showed me the little village in which I had to pass the next six months. Then they brought me in other different places. We did so much in few days. I understood that I had to sattle in this country very quickly and so I did. But I had to go away from my new house for few weeks.
In fact I had to go to the other side of Austria, far away from my house to attend a German course with the other Exchange Students of my organization in Austria. I met the craziest people from all around the world. It was amazing. So many culteres all together. So many languages. So many differences. It was like a dream. You don't really understand what you are doing but you can't escape from it. And you don't want to. In this two weeks I had friends from different countries, which was something I was looking for.
People from all the continents were there. People who became real friends for me. Maybe not just friends but something more. We were like a big family and we still are. No matter the distance of our nations, no matter our differences we were ready to help each other to overcome the difficulties of the Exchange Student life. Moreover during these weeks I could start learning German which is something very hard but at same time incredibly interesting. It's a very tough language to learn. Difficult grammar and many idiomatic expressions but it amazes me every time I speak it.
Then, after two awesome weeks, it was time to go home. everyday I had the opportunity to learn something new and to face the reality of that place, as I already said was completely different from my home country. Even if Italy and Austria are so close they are so
Anyway, my life had to go on. My "summer holiday" was almost over and I soon started school. The first day of school took me back when I was just five years old. That day my parents were with me, so I started elementary school, and so I met my new classmates and my teachers. The same happened here in Austria. I was with my host father and I had no idea how the school worked. With the time I understood that something that was normal in my Italian school, here it wasn't normal at all. And I also understood the opposite. It took time for me to get used to this new system. It wasn't easy but I had to. During this year I switched my class one time. I didn't have any problem there, but in the other class I could have attended the Spanish classes.
The time was passing by and I was having a really awesome time. At first I couldn't realize that I was an Exchange Student. When I said to other people: "Hi, I am an Exchange Student!" it sounded really weird. Then I understood that it didn't have to sound weird. But when I say it I have to say it with pride.
So, as I said the time was passing by and I was living an amazing life. Full of new friends, new expiriences, new places etc..
I soon realized that the happier I was, the sadder I was. In fact I had to go home soon, the time was passing really fast, and my return to Italy was nearer than before.
Everything was perfect. I started travelling a lot with the other Exchange students, with my host families, with my class mates...
Friendships were born, loves were born... I soon realized that one day I would have lost everything. Not forever but for a long time. After Christmas everything passed so fast, I couldn't really believe it. I had to pass the last 6 months there. In this time I traveled, I had to change host family, I made projects for school, I went to a lot of concerts and a lot more...
I still remember the last two big trips I did, The first was the Euro-tour. A trip that took 16 days, around more than 7 countries with more than 90 Exchange students. That was a crazy trip. We did so many things, which includes really stupid stuff, we had fun though. Those 16 days were really intense but I've never had so much fun before. Then the last month I had a trip with my first host family around Austria. We've seen so many sights and we did crazy stuff as well: We went to a place called "Fucking", we took selfies with sheeps and a lot more... I had a lot of fun there.
As I already said, I changed Host family. There I had the possibility to work for the first time in contact with the public, we went to a lot of concerts and a lot, a lot more...
Then suddenly... I had to go home.
I still remeber that day. The 19th of July. My host family brought me at the airport. I Had to say goodbye. In less than 2 hours I was back home.
What is harder, to leave a life you built in 16 years and say goodbye for just a year or to leave a life you built in a year and say goodbye forever?
Everything I did is now part of me. It helped me to grow. Now I think I have something that a normal person doesn't have. I don't know what it is, but I'm sure I have it.
Now it's time I continue my normal life remembering those times to whoever wants to know about them and to whoever wants to live the same experience.
It's like I just woke up. Everything is exactly the same as it was before. It's just I slept for a long time.