The Exchange Romance

You’ve probably heard of the phrase ‘holiday romance.’ The golden beach, the glorious sunset, and perhaps a couple glasses of wine or cocktails… basically  everything that we long for in a dull adulthood. It’s what we see in movies and read about in books. If 3 days are all people need to have a romantic encounter, imagine what can happen when you expand your holiday into a full exchange semester.

Being abroad in a foreign place is exciting, and that excitement is shared amongst people who have the same passions and interests. Holiday romance is short, dream-like, and sometimes it’s just in your mind. The lifespan of study abroad or exchange is much longer, which means more time to connect, more time to get to know each other and more memories to be created and shared.

It’s easy to catch the love bug, even for the proud-to-be-single.

Honestly, I was never a romantic person. I didn’t dream of being in love. In fact, I was the kind of girl who didn’t mourn for being single, but celebrated it. I enjoyed being alone, taking time for myself and the freedom from being tied down. When I got to Australia and embarked on my exchange journey, I caught that love bug in just one trip with other exchange students.

We hardly knew each other, but somehow we understood. We were all strangers with blank canvas in a new place. A few months prior we made the same decision, we went through the same things, we said goodbye to our respective homes and had the same dreams about new adventures. We ended up at the same place. In a planet of billions habitants, what are the odds of encountering people that are so similar?

And then you start to mingle. You have to – good companions add up the funs and cancel out the fears. Making new friends can be simple – a blank canvas makes things easier, there are no burdens from the past… being abroad is a new page that you’re starting with new people that share the same passions in life. You smile, and suddenly you catch a pair of eyes.

I know it sounds so cheesy, but I swear it happened to me. I caught a pair of eyes, which turned me into more of a romantic. But that’s another story.

The exchange romance grows with the journey. If it hits you, it hits you hard. It spices up your whole adventure.

During my exchange semester in Australia, I was proud to call some awesome people my friends. And well, I lost count on how many romances I’ve heard about from them.

A girl met her “very compatible” partner-in-crime on an exchange students’ day trip, another met her “the one who shares something special” during a night out, and yet another met her “cutest guy EVER” during an exchange student event.

It’s really interesting how surreal exchange romance can be. For one, the hyped-up part of you with another hyped-up person  leave port to new and exciting experiences together. It sounds pretty damn romantic just by thinking of it. And as I said, it doesn’t end with just one encounter. Knowing that you’re at the same place for at least a semester, that’s something solid. Not at all a bubble, at least not until the end of exchange approaches.

But there’s always a goodbye, the questions is, for good or for now?

The romances I spoke about above ended differently. It all comes to how you decide to go on eventually. There may be tears, and if not, there will be challenges. Either way, it’s not going to be easy. But what’s easy in life? So why not embrace it, and leave no regrets in life? After all, the biggest thing we have learned while abroad is “to make every moment count.”

And here’s a little secret for you: all goodbyes at the end of an exchange are only for now. Because even if it doesn’t work out, the memories are truly precious and will last a lifetime. Ultimately, it’s not really a break up.

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Jenn L.

Jenn is a politics student from Hong Kong who has just returned from her exchange semester from China and Australia. She found her interest in travelling since her field trip to Inner Mongolia and took the courage to travel alone when she hit 18. She shares passion in ending poverty and believes in the power of individuals. And without fail, always forgets to drink her tea hot.

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