What To Expect When Returning To Your Exchange Town
“Once you feel it, you need nothing,” says Seafret’s song Blank You Out. That is exactly what has happened to me as soon as I took a step out of the railway station towards the town I used to study abroad in.
I will diminish the experience if I say that coming back to the place that is, to you, the motherland of thousands of unforgettable moments is only emotionally rewarding. Well, it surely is, but it’s hard for me to come up with words to describe precisely what it feels like.
Step 1. Accepting the idea of coming back to Germany
As you may or may not know, I spent five months in a small German town called Frankfurt am Oder (FFO) on the boarder of Germany and Poland, 90 km away from Berlin. Then, after completing my semester abroad, I went back to Ukraine. Long four months passed before I decided to go back to Germany – to just give it a visit, see old friends and walk around the now well-known streets of Berlin as well as FFO.
I will admit, it was a bit scary. I was afraid that everything wouldn’t be as rosy as I thought it was, as I thought I might have romanticized it in my mind. I was afraid to be disappointed with Berlin’s, FFO’s and mine first moment after four months of not seeing one another. Nevertheless, I held the hope deep in my soul that I would go back and feel that nothing has changed.
Step 2. Making it happen
Surprisingly, all my hopes were beautifully realized and fears were fully disregarded.
On the first morning, I rode the tram to the dormitory I used to live in (thankfully, one of my friends who still lived there had allowed me to stay at her place). During this trek through the town of FFO – the place that was my hometown for almost half a year – I found myself looking out of the tram window and realizing that every part of the town was something I recognized; something that was still there, even though time had passed by and even though I didn’t live there anymore.
Moreover, every square meter of FFO’s street contained at least one memory connected with it. Somehow, looking at the things through this ‘outsider’ perspective, I saw them not as they were at that very same moment, but as they used to be months ago.
However, for me that nostalgia wasn’t sad; it was warm and, in a sense, rewarding. Before coming back to Ukraine after my semester in Germany, I was afraid to leave this place. I was afraid I would forget it and, in doing so, forget myself. But one summer week let me understand that it’s simply impossible. My semester abroad will never be forgotten.
I made the trip back to the city of my old university as I wanted to prove to myself that it is a place that can still be easily reached; that Berlin is still as close as it was when I was in FFO, even though now I am back home in Ukraine over 1,700km away. Going to Berlin confirmed my thoughts, that hundreds of kilometers mean nothing when considering something you love.
Moreover, coming back there for a week meant diving again in that awesome way of living and atmosphere if not a student life, but of absolute freedom. It also meant seeing all of my old friends and beloved places again, such as cafes, shops, parks and lots of others. I even made a tour around the university and had a couple of snacks in the uni’s canteen (don’t think I’m over obsessed, the snacks there are just REALLY tasty?).
It was a pleasure to feel Berlin as the city that used to be mine, and to not to feel like a tourist there (again). Maybe it’s just me, as I am so in love with everything in Berlin, but I enjoyed every single minute I had there. I even did a little check-list of things to see and try in order to make feel myself back ‘home’. Some were funny and some were stupid, but altogether, they’ve played their role.
Step 3. Analyzing the effect
That’s why I believe doing such a thing is a good practice. Especially if you feel homesick for that one place you were forced to leave. And there is nothing bad about being homesick in this way, so don’t be afraid to admit it. People tend to miss things they love and places they’ve enjoyed spending time in. And if returning there will help you, then go and do it! I promise you, you won’t regret.