Leaving Lausanne did not feel entirely real. I think after spending so much time in one place, it is hard to imagine that you might never be back. For the whole last week in this town, I have been living in total denial, which is really the easiest and (clearly) the most mature way to handle things. I’ve mostly been doing the exact same things as normal, refusing to pack, and actually ignoring anyone who tries to remind me that I’m leaving. If someone insists that I should actually start getting my things together, I kindly tell them to stop talking. Very mature.
Luckily, I do not have to say goodbye quite yet, since I will be traveling around Europe for a month after leaving Lausanne! I am really excited for that, since I will be seeing many countries in Eastern Europe that I have never visited before. I also do not know a single word of Czech, German, Hungarian, Greek or Italian so I’m sure that will create some funny/embarrassing /awkward beyond belief stories along the way. I’m sure it will be a whirlwind experience, but for now I’m reflecting on how crazy this past semester has been.
Walking through the streets of Lausanne, I remember the first time that I arrived here and the name Ouchy (the area by the lake) meant nothing to me and I was ‘not all that excited’ about the chocolate. Total newbie mistake.
Being at the end makes me think of the beginning and how I showed up somewhat terrified and completely over my head. I had never had to do all that much for myself, even though I had always thought of myself as independent. I can now say that the word has taken on a whole new meaning after having to beat down the doors of the housing administration just to get my security deposit back (I did get it back!).
It really strikes me how the actual city of Lausanne hasn’t changed, but the people in it have. I promise not to make this into a sappy “this semester has changed my life and I will never be the same” drama, but I will say that studying abroad is like nothing else in this world. I wouldn’t say that it changed me, but more that it made me feel alive. It made me feel more secure in the person that I am at the same time that it made me feel small in comparison to what is out there. It is so easy, especially at a small school like Richmond, to get into a groove and never realize how much there is out there.
Being in a city with so many religions, colors, cultures, languages and people has made me so much more certain about who I want to be. It is almost as if I am taking all of these differences surrounding me, picking which ones I like best, and inserting them into my own life. My friend Amanda said it the best; it’s like leaving little bits of yourself behind in every place you visit, but also picking up little bits that others give you.
This is turning sappier than I intended, but all in all, I will say that I have never been more proud of myself than I am in this moment. Not because I passed all of my classes (yay!), not because I made super awesome amazingly cool friends and not because I necessarily got to do all of the things that I wanted to. I’m most proud because I let this experience grow me. If I could give one piece of advice about study abroad, it would be to let the experience take you whatever way it wants to take you. If you want to meet the same people and say the same things and feel the same emotions, stay at home!
Study abroad will offer you bits of the entire world, but that means nothing if you don’t take them. If you do choose to go abroad, do not leave without making an impression and do not leave without letting the experience make an impression on you.