My my it’s been a while since my first-ever post on this blog, back in August when I was a tender ERASMUS uninitiate. Back when I had no confidence in my French abilities, no skiing ability and no idea of the wonderful people whom I would meet. Now, after ten months of the Swiss experience, I can more or less speak French fluently, have made some life-changing friends…but sadly still cannot ski.
Exchange in Lausanne is over for everybody now, and soon even the sadness and fond memories will slowly start to fade. It’s such a cliché to say it feels like it was all a dream, but there is certainly a surreal quality to it. The pictures in my memory seem bathed in a golden luminosity, where even the bad things start to look good, simply by virtue of being part of that period. Add on the paradisiacal Swiss scenery, with its majestic mountains and the clear waters of Lake Léman, and one starts to wonder why one ever left.
But of course, it was the inevitable conclusion for us all. The other day in London I met up with a friend from Lausanne, who had done the whole exchange thing himself the year before. His, rather brutal line, was that I was pretty much going to lose contact with the majority of people I had befriended this year; it’s just the reality of exchange. Ouch, but I suppose he is right, in a sense. Everyone goes back to reality, ties are loosened, people drop out of your life. But not everyone; don’t want to do like a broken record, but I always say that friendships worth keeping will stay alive; distance, pah!
So my children, what lessons have I learnt from my Swiss adventure, aside from how to speak French? The first thing that springs to mind is to never say never. As soon as you close yourself off to things, you lose. You lose opportunities, possible friendships and new experiences. I’d say I was pretty open in general, but I was rather anal about speaking French for a while and not mixing with English speakers. I am glad that I did (because that way, I actually learnt to speak French), but I’m also glad that I didn’t keep it up. I caved, and started speaking English more, and what do you know, I met some of the most interesting, kind and fun people that way.
Secondly, have no fear. Life is short, but exchange is painfully so, and you will only waste your own precious time if you are too chicken to do whatever it is that’s scaring you. Thirdly, have no specific expectations because destiny will just laugh in your face and throw you a curve ball. Fourth, make sure that all your undertakings are securely covered by your insurance.
And that’s it folks! Needless to say my exchange has been a fabulous, and memorable one, whose effects will continue to reverberate for a lifetime. Whether you have been on exchange or are going on one, know that you are incredibly lucky to have such a chance. Just don’t forget that insurance.