That fateful day had come at last. I always new it would. I had to leave Durham without any plans to return. My exchange had ended, it was time to head home. But I didn’t feel like I was heading home – I felt like I was leaving it. Durham had become my home; my friends lived there, I had memories there, I felt at home there. The thought of being homesick for my house in Vancouver had long ago vanished, replaced in stead by the knowledge I would feel homesick for Durham when I got back to UBC.
So this is the first blog post since I left for Durham that will be written in Vancouver, instead of Durham. I’m not sure if my feelings can really be captured in a post, but the word surreal comes to mind. It’s like a day that always seemed so far in the future suddenly reared its head and you see the life you got used to vanish in an instant. Other exchange students will know what I mean and I think that experiencing it is the only way to really understand the feeling.
Let me start out this post with the briefest descriptions of my goodbye (it was very low key). I had a 6:30 train to catch out of Durham on Friday morning, meaning I needed a quiet night before. I figured a few drinks at our college bar with friends was good enough. Many of my friends had already left so there were only maybe 5 of my close friends at the bar, but plenty of other friends were also there. I went to bed relatively early since I had to be up at 5:30 to have a shower, finish packing, return my key, and get to the train station. I had already asked a friend to help bring my stuff to the train station because I had two heavy bags. The next morning, I was surprised (and grateful) to see more of my friends had woke up early (despite going out the previous night) to see me off.
I hate goodbyes – for me it’s always “see you around” or “see you when I see you” or something along those lines. I don’t like the emotional and long winded farewells and basically avoid them, but I’ll admit there was a tear in my eye when I was saying goodbye to my friends. These are the people that saw me through some incredibly trying times, often without knowing it, and I will miss them dearly. And so I know it wasn’t goodbye – not really. I’ll see all of them again, when we’ve got some new stories to tell. But enough about me, here are a few tips on how to deal with saying goodbye to your new home.
Give Yourself Time for Fun
The comedown of ending an exchange is pretty dramatic, don’t make it worse by coming home right after exams end. For me this was easy – Durham has three weeks at the end of the year with no classes, exams, or assignments due meaning I could hang out with my friends, decompress, and get ready mentally to leave. Whether this takes the form of sticking around to backpack for a few weeks, visiting friends in their hometowns, or just visiting that one city you have yet to cross off your bucket list, giving yourself time for fun before coming home is crucial.
I think this is really my most important tip. When you get back to your hometown or UBC, keep yourself busy. Plan to see all your friends right away, have lots of exciting adventures planned, just don’t stay at home and watch Netflix all day. Not only is this a good way to deal with jet lag, but it’s hard to feel homesick when you’re constantly out of the house doing things. For example, I’ve spent countless hours on the beach, gone on a couple of hikes, saw all my family, had a BBQ, spent an afternoon shopping downtown, watched Jurassic World, all since getting home late Friday night. The less time you spend dwelling on what you miss the better.
Remind Yourself You’ll Go Back
One of the things you’ll learn when you go on exchange is that after living somewhere else for a year you leave a piece of yourself behind when you leave. It’ll always feel like home and you’ll always yearn to go back and one day you will. Whether it’s a year from now or 20 years from now, you’ll see the familiar sights, visit all your old haunts, and go back.
Don’t Make a Huge Deal Out of It
I’m not sure if this advice works for everyone, but for me saying goodbye is best kept a small affair. I don’t like to get all my friends together to say bye or go out of my way to talk to people who I’m not very close with. I tried to say goodbye to the people I had grown to consider like family but I didn’t go out of my way to have awkward, half-hearted farewells.
There’s my advice, it’s not the best and it’s pretty general but everyone has to find their own way of saying goodbye. This isn’t going to be my last post, I have a few more coming, but we’re nearing the end of this adventure. For now, I’m signing off.