January: the first month of the year, surely a marker for fresh starts, new beginnings? Not the bringer of goodbyes left, right and centre. Yet they seem to be all that are coming to me. First I had the rather abrupt surprise departure of my laptop on Monday, followed swiftly by a wave goodbye to over a grand for a new one. But mere material possesions; what are they when confronted with having to bid farewell to the people we love?
This is the beauty and tragedy of exchange student life: whether it be after one year or one semester, the goodbyes are going to have to happen. And they aren’t easy. I remember floods of tears in my first year of university at the departure of a much-loved chum on exchange. Now, three years older and harder, I hope to retain my composure a little better as a far greater number of loyal allies fall away around me.
Last month already saw the back of a fellow exchanger, lost to South America (lucky thing); but it doesn’t end there. The upcoming end of exams means also the end of an era. Friends, comrades, cohorts, acquaintances: a good chunk of them are heading off, and in every direction possible. From friends like siblings, to familiar faces I only ever saw behind a pint at pubnights, the next semester will proceed only in their absence.
Yet the wonderful thing just about going on exchange is it shows how mobille we are, and, if we really want to (who doesn’t?), can continue to be. All the foreign buddies made represent another country to visit, and another friend to see while there. Hell, 1 in 10 students meets their lifelong partner while on ERASMUS, apparently. Now that’s what I call international relations…!
Lame jokes aside, it really is quite upsetting having to say goodbye to some really lovely people. In French, au revoir means literally “till we meet again”, whereas adieu is pretty much goodbye, for good – “to God”. It hasn’t quite sunk in yet, the prospect of the more painful goodbyes, but they are definitely au revoirs, not adieus. I’ll be seeing you again…