Since returning home from The Netherlands and my other travels and having met amazing people, it has been hard to stay in contact. It was easy at first, we both would make time to chat and also be missing each other, but as time went on, our lives continued and we became so busy that it was months between conversations, and even then, the time zones were hard to deal with because you would be going to bed as they were waking up, so between my sleepy eyes and their tired waking eyes, it was hard to hold a conversation.
Relationships defiantly changed, I didn’t have the same friendship group when I returned to high school for my senior year, the connections I thought I made with my friends back home while I was away weren’t what they seemed. I had changed, I grew up, matured, while some friends seemed to still be immature and stuck in their own world. It was frustrating, all I wanted to do was spend time with friends, or have a decent conversation while I struggled with being home, but I couldn’t. This struggle made me connect with friends from overseas more. In this sense, I made other friends and connected with other people, which allowed me to open up.
I’ve been home for about 5 years now from the Netherlands, and I still speak to my host family. Very rarely, but we still catch up from time to time. My friends from the Netherlands don’t contact me much, but I always see what they are up to on Facebook, so it’s nice to a degree to still have those connections.
I’ve been back from the States for a couple of months now and I keep in contact with some my colleagues on a monthly/odd basis. Facebook and Snapchat keeps me updated with what people are up to, so there isn’t much to talk about when you do strike a conversation. When I head back to the States I know relationships will definitely have changed. One friend has had a baby since I left, I love Facebook and Instagram for this reason – being able to see pictures.
I think it’s clear to see that communication across time zones is difficult for some as they have to adjust to time differences when contacting friends and family from home. From experience relationships will always change because as you travel and experience different things from around the world, the people you left behind stay the same.
Click here to see Charlotte’s hopes of communicating with friends from abroad after returning home.
Getting ideas for a research project is not easy unless you get talking and researching and thinking about what you have previously done.
In my subject BCM210 last semester I conducted research to do with Studying Abroad and how student experiences can be both positive and negative during and also upon their return. As I have completed lots of research previously on studying abroad and student exchange, I wish to continue this study.
While learning about students in my tutorial I discovered that there was a student (Charlotte) from the USA that lives very close to where I was based over in the states working on summer camps as a soccer coach. We soon connected to build a working friendship which has allowed us to pair up for Task 3 researching studying abroad and how students can get the most out of their experiences while studying abroad. We want to look at the geographics of how students connect and engage with others while on exchange and how they connect with friends and family back home. Charlotte and I have spent lots of time brainstorming, creating and scratching many ideas to present and expand our research. Charlotte and I will collaborate together while gathering primary and secondary research and information from other exchange students at UOW as well as online.
From discussing our strengths and weaknesses, we will be presenting our information via wordpress with a category allowing you to select what type of section you would like to read into about exchange.
We hope to blog on the following topics expand our own and others knowledge of studying abroad: How we use media to deal with the geographical space between home and our host country. This proposal lead to multiple sub blog posts topics that we can research into and talk about with students. They are;
How you deal with time zones
How do you connect to home (social media, Skype, different apps and apps that do/don’t work)-link to descriptions/videos of how apps work
Who you contact and how relationships have changed
As well as these topics we will also include posts about our own experiences and find academic articles to help with expressing these views. Being able to talk to other students as well that are currently on exchange will help with the research, thus we will endeavour to get some thoughts from other students dealing with the emotions of it all.
Interviews will be conducted and recorded which would allow for Charlotte and I to reflect back on these while producing our work. It should be considered that we could do a film recording for one of our blogs as this is another platform that would be very useful in sharing the experiences of students. This still needs to be discussed.
Sharing these experiences will help students dealing with any problems they may be experiencing also which we should be conscious of although I feel that this is going to be a positive learning experience for Charlotte and myself along with the students involved.
International education and cultural competence – one of the best things you will do in your live, but yet, hardly anyone will. There’s concerns and difficulties as to why people don’t go and live another world for a little while, and while all is okay, they don’t know what they are missing out on.
Volg and Kell, 2007, spoke about the concerns and difficulties for international students. Some things that were mentioned were:
Safety and security
Housing and employment
Visa and Migration issues
Loneliness and separation
As a 15 year old, I struggled with most issues that were spoken about in Volg and Kell’s reading this week – let me take you on an adventure.
I was 15 years old, boarding an airplane to Dubai, yes it was sad leaving my parents, but once I composed myself on my 18 hour flight, everything was looking up, free movies, food, and plenty of time to rest and dream about all the possibilities I was about to encounter. From Dubai to Amsterdam, I touched down, only to find that you could walk straight through customs with no problem, and even though the security guard looks scary, you should still go through the correct gate because otherwise you lose you host family for an hour until you eventually just sit next to the information desk waiting for someone to ask for you. As soon as I met my host family, I knew that this was going to be the best 6 months of my life. Although I was worried because Google told me that the city I was going to be living in was the city with the highest crime rate. I was ready to experience it at all costs, because I wasn’t under mum’s wing anymore, I was a free bird, still being protected though (which helps considering I’m only 15).
Days went by, jet-lag went away slowly and school was starting, I remember sitting in the big school hall for the first time, I was introduced, I sat by myself and all of a sudden I felt hundreds of eyes on me. There was a group of girls I noticed, they were wayyyy too enthusiastic and I was like okayyy, don’t make friends with the crazy girls – let me be a spoiler, they turned out to be my BESTEST friends and they supported me and allowed me to experience life just like they live.
Time went by, I had my birthday, Halloween, Christmas, New Years, school exams, I joined Scouts and a youth group and all the rest. By the time I knew it, it was time to come home, and although it was harder leaving The Netherlands and not Australia, I knew it was time. Things started to become real and I had my cousins wedding to attend to. The next thing I knew, I was at the airport with my host family and all of my class mates that I had spent the last 6 months with.
My intercultural experience was extreme, I was prepared to take the risks and explore the world, try new things. The girls and boys in my class, along with the beautiful teachers, family and friends invested so much time into my experience wanting to make it the most special one there could have been. Even though I went over knowing only 3 words of Dutch, the language barrier did not stop me from taking a chance in life. While I was there, I also connected with my blood family and was able to connect with my heritage and ancestry.
Mind you, it is important to keep in mind that not all exchange trips are just like the one I have told. Some aren’t as fun, you might not get along with the family or you might have no friends at school – but hey, at least they could say they did it. I met people just like this from Belgium and Australia and not everything was smooth sailing. I say to anyone and everyone – while you have the chance, seize the moment, go and live and do what you need to do before you get tired down and it stops you from doing it.
Marginson (2012) spoke about cultural competence which made me relate this to my exchange experience. It made me motivated, empathetic, flexible, understanding, compassionate, and the fun bubbly person that I once was. Years down the track I still talk to my family and best friends like there was no goodbye and I will forever cherish them in my heart.
I have since returned to The Netherlands and although people have moved on with their lives and the world has gone around, my cultural experience along with this great international educational experience will forever be in my heart.
It’s the best thing I have ever done, and I am sure it will be the best for any other person that does it.