It’s been exactly 392 days (when I am writing this) since I departed for my exchange, and somewhere in the neighbourhood of 260 days since I returned home from the tropical nation state, Singapore.
NOTE: I do work for the IEC, and they’ll play a part in this story, but only in so much as they have been part of the readjustment of coming home.
I didn’t come straight back to school; I went home, worked for the summer, and then came back. The working just felt like another vacation where I didn’t have the stress of school.
Coming back to UTM in the fall felt in some ways like the first few days of my exchange, except everything was familiar, but I was the one that had changed. Exchange had meant a lot of growing and changing, and I had to readjust to the life I had known.
The first thing anyone would ask me when they saw me in the fall was how it was and if I liked it. My response was that I loved it, I missed it, and I wish I could go back. (This is all still accurate). It made UTM feel more like a new environment, and I was desperately clinging to the friendships I’d made abroad, the people that could understand the genuine love for the experience we shared without having to list out all the adventures we’d gone on.
Being asked frequently made me feel somehow like an outsider, I’d missed so much, and I wasn’t in the same classes as my friends in some cases, and life had gone on.
This was sort of a revelation, a reality I’d forgotten to consider.
I was super lucky in my readjustment between reconnecting with friends I hadn’t seen in 8 months, and maintaining friendships with people I’d just left, that I had the IEC. My work at the IEC consists of sharing my overwhelming enthusiasm and love for my exchange and convincing others to go because I couldn’t want anything more for everyone. That helped me adjust more than I ever thought it would. It created a blend between my life on exchange and my life at UTM afterward, and helped ease the confusion.
All I ever want to do is convince people to go abroad, regardless of working for the IEC or not. My friends are graduating or looking for work so an exchange during their undergrad isn’t possible but I try to think of ways to have them go somewhere through grad school or internships. To go on an adventure.
I’m no risk taker, absolutely not, but ever since going and coming back from exchange, all I’ve ever wanted is for everyone to see the world, because it’s so beautiful out there. The people. The food. The places. Everything.
Note: Your eyes aren’t tricking you, I’m actually not in this picture.
Exchange gave me this passion, and all I want to do is have people understand by having their own adventure.
I’ve blended my life abroad and my life here together, but that doesn’t change how much I did miss UTM and the friends here while I was gone, and how much I miss the people I met while at NUS. I have seen so much more of the world by connecting with other people whose lives only intersected with mine at school be it at UTM or at NUS, and I couldn’t be more thankful.
Written by: Kimiko Yamaguchi