(Ex)change Your Life – Story of Our Dutcheese Family
We are two exchange students – Julia from Germany and Liina from Estonia. And we want to inspire and encourage you to step out of your comfort zone by telling you our story.
“The ship is safe in the harbour but that’s not what ships are built for.” (John A. Shedd) – That quote is describing perfectly my (Julia) exchange period. The time here cost me an ocean of tears and brought me to my limits in many ways. Stepping out of my comfort zone at the beginning and leaving everything behind, was not easy for me as the most home-bounded person I know. “What am I actually doing here?” was something I asked myself every day.
My exchange started in August 2017 and after four months all the international friends I made here left. At this point I probably made the most far-reaching decision of my life. I decided to become a buddy mentor (an adviser, who is taking care of up to 10 internationals and coming together once a week) myself, without knowing how much this would impact my life and the lives of my “kids”.
First meeting of our big family in period three
Our journey began in January, when all the new international exchange students came to explore Wageningen, including I (Liina). It was the hardest decision I have ever made. As the most undecided person, I was not sure about coming to Wageningen until the end. But now I know that it is the best decision I have ever made. While many buddy families first meet during the AID right before period four, we already got the chance to get to know each other in period three. Through dinners, wine and beer tastings, parties and city tours we already became close. This was a huge advantage at the AID when our real adventure began.
Although only half of the group is actually from the United States, everyone knew us as the group of “Americans”. That’s because some of the true Americans in our group stripped out of their clothes already at the first party. I think our group was also unique since not many Americans lose their ways into small Wageningen or because we just live in two different worlds. You could recognize this through the way they speak, dance, eat, talk etc. It was funny to see how many stereotypes happen to be true. Our Italian friend fought with the Frenchies about which country has the best wine; the Americans were shocked about the (small) size of everything; the Frenchies mostly spoke French with each other and our Canadian girls claimed how much better maple syrup is compared to Dutch stroop.
Exploring the Netherlands – excursion to Texel island
Shortly Soon we behaved like a small family with the aim to travel through Europe together. At our first dinner, one friend stated “I want to travel to at least twenty countries in these four months – one every weekend”. That sounds crazy, but in the end, our journey led us counted together, to around fifteen European countries. Next to traveling, our daily programme also included practicing Dutch and learning new languages. Expressions like “Egészségére” (Hungarian), “Terviseks” (Estonian), “Voulez-vous coucher avec moi (ce soir)?” (French) and “Alles klar, digga?” (German) – are only some that we will remember for the rest of our lives.
King’s Day in Arnhem and Amsterdam
All of our friends are unique and unforgettable and it is pretty surprising how close you can get with people within four months. Although, everyone had such a different character, we made a perfect family. We had this typical guy who keeps losing everything, we had a chick magnet, one good soul of the group (our cutie), the intro- and extroverted ones, the sportsmen, the party animals and the Frenchies. We know it was not always easy with us two and our giggling can get on the nerves. But, we hope all our friends and Dutch family will remember our good sides even after reading this blogpost.
But as usual – all good things must come to an end. This is the reason why our exchange made us cry – in fact very, very much. We knew in advance that this day would come earlier than we wanted it to come, but the reality hit us hard. Since almost everyone left separately from each other, there almost wasn’t a day we did not have to say goodbye to someone. Since everyone is always so busy and the United States and Canada are not really around the corner, you can never know if this is a goodbye for good or you will see your friends again.
ESN olympic night
Currently, being in Wageningen doesn’t feel same anymore. Doing all the things alone which we used to do together is quite a challenge. Everything reminds us our friends and sometimes we wish we were the ones who have left, but our life has to continue and go on it’s own path. On the other hand, we are just thankful that those amazing people stepped into our lives and we could make lifelong friends.
You might think that a long distance friendship is fragile and easily damaged, but we believe it is not in our case. Even if it is not possible to be in contact every day, we know that we will still feel the same familiarity and friendship on the day we will see each other again. We are looking forward to seeing you again and traveling the world (the biggest advantage of making international friends!).
This story might have a touch of a sad ending, but we want to encourage you to step out of your comfort zone and face new challenges. They enrich us in many ways – we are growing and getting stronger through them! Don’t be a ship staying safely in the harbour, but see the life as an ocean which you can discover! Of course there will not only be sunshine, but with faith and a group of good friends you are able to survive every storm and thunder. We greatly encourage you to talk to as many new people as possible, experience new cultures and way of thinking and (EX)CHANGE your life!
Goodbye evening for our Dutcheese family (This is not the end of our story!)