Ten months on, and I can speak French now…

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 Continue reading

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The absolute Worst Thing about going on exchange…

…is having to leave at the end.

In my last few days, I began to find the whole exchange experience rather cruel; and the better the time you had, so the cruelness increases proportionately. You are thrown into this mad, intense environment. You make great friends in an instant, romances effloresce overnight, you have a few months or weeks (or in one case, mere days) to really let these relationships flourish and then OH WAIT, you’ve all got to go home now. You may meet some really wonderful people but making plans for the future sometimes feels depressingly futile. Let’s face the cold reality of it: Continue reading

Why travelling is the best cure for a broken heart

Or maybe the second best, because we all know that the first best is time.

I write this on the bank of Lake Lugano, my toes dipped into the cool water while a rather threatening-looking family of black ducks hovers alarmingly nearby. Ticino is in all respects a slice of Italy in Switzerland; I feel as far from Lausanne as if I were in a different country.

Travelling takes you completely out of your familiar surroundings and everything that reminds you of what is causing you pain; I guess recently I’ve been needing that. Much as I love Lausanne, it seems like every corner I turn these days triggers memories of those who are no longer by my side. This trip to Ticino could not have been more perfectly timed as I attempt to reconcile myself to recent, particularly painful, separations and prepare myself for yet more, before my own departure. Swiss scenery, achingly beautiful, is a fine balm for an aching heart, and the balmy Ticino weather soothes. In addition, we’re camping, so no electricity, plus my phone died, so it really is complete isolation.

It’s also been an opportunity to spend some last quality moments with a good friend I made here, who is travelling with me. The choice of travelling companion, should you have one, is important, too. She is calm and genial but highly practical and no-nonsense. Spending the entire trip moaning about my feelings just won’t wash, but neither is conversation paramount; I am free to get lost in my own thoughts and memories as we speed over the rails through the beguiling Swiss landscape.

To de-place yourself from your usual environment, to see other parts of the world and learn how others live, to remove yourself from your own little world of woe, is the perfect diversion. Not to say that thoughts of people and events won’t still haunt you wherever you go, but the feelings become attenuated. Hell, the whole effect may be entirely palliative, not to mention temporary… but I like to think not. Travelling changes you, and refreshes the spirit. Three gaping absences and each new departure tears a little more; travelling allows me to, if not mend the tears, at least be distracted from the pain.

Exchange cannot last forever. You can only hope you’ll see some people again, even as you move on down the road.

One final moment of magic…

We all know that ERASMUS is intense, things are in constant flux and relationships materialise at the drop of a hat, etc. etc., but I think I’ve just made a friend who blew it up to a whole new level. Over the course of exactly seven days, his last in Switzerland, some kind of magic alchemy happened and I suddenly find myself in the midst of a separation as unexpected for it’s sadness as its suddenness.

Whence did this friendship suddenly blossom? Well, both parties having recently experienced the “loss” of someone close, in our mutual grief and lacerating loneliness, we found one another… In all seriousness, though, circumstances have changed of late, the end is all too nigh, people are leaving at an alarming rate and we who rest are clinging to our final moments together.

Friendships take time to mature but it’s like this one got a queue-jump. How is it possible to bond so rapidly with someone? A whole load of D&Ms (Deep and Meaningful conversations), that’s how. I’m always going on about alchimie (chemistry), shared values, kindness, mutual intrigue, etc. and here we have it in bucket loads. Knowing we had so little time left was no deterrent, in fact made us more determined, to talk one another’s ears off every moment we could.

Had circumstances been different, would we even have become friends? A fortnight ago, I would have been vaguely indifferent. Now, the thought doesn’t bear thinking of; the irony being that we’ve both been here the same amount of time, met about three months ago, but somehow missed one another. He has been my saviour in what would have been an otherwise unbearable week (since England got kicked out of the Euros, everything went to shit…!); a warm and reassuring presence. So though he’s made the last few days incandesce, he’s also just added another farewell to make the ever-looming end of my sojourn even more painful; but then I prefer to see it more as a bitter-sweet “see you later”.

Isn’t it funny how things can turn in the blink of an eye? In general, I mean. And how all these ties, whether they last or not, will probably have ripple effects for the rest of your life. How one random encounter at a tandem soirée can literally light up your life. How bothering with a simple salut can make the difference between distant neighbour and warm friendship. How a little (too much) alcohol can set off a sequence of events that would entirely transform everything. How a random decision right toward the end to go watch the football together could lead to something beautiful.