As you read this, I have just said goodbye to my host family, and an entire life of mine, and gotten into the ICE Train 579 to Frankfurt. This train will bring me away from all my new friends, and back to a series of plane and car connections resulting in a return journey to Pittsburgh.
I am happy to have the chance to see my fellow exchange students again, but on the other hand I just want to go straight home. I feel so at home here in Hamburg and it will be hard enough to leave, and then seeing and saying goodbye to even more people will just make things harder.
Thankfully though, I have gotten to say these goodbyes in German. That means instead of saying goodbye, I've said auf wiedersehen, which literally translates as until we see each other again. Thus, I haven't really said farewell, but rather see you soon.
On the upside, these moments provide lots of opportunities for testing out the limits of positivity. I am usually described as a positive person, but I do also somehow enjoy or at least feel it's acceptable to be sad when the situation warrants the emotion. There are however, some people who would say that you have complete control over your emotions, and that the only thing making me sad is myself. This is an interesting theory, and I am testing is as much as I can. I think however that there is a thin line and it is important to realize the significance of crying. I am not by any means against crying, or being sad I just think there are some times it is a fitting reaction, such as when saying goodbye, and some times where it is not worth getting worked up over, like when you are stuck in traffic. I still am not exactly sure how to word this correctly, so if you are interested in the topic, check out Tynan's blog as he has written a lot to the topic recently.
Whenever I start to cry or be sad about leaving, I try to alter my perspective a bit so that I am also aware of and thankful for every part of this year. In this way, the tears are not only tears of sadness, but also tears of joy due to such a spectacular year. It is an interesting mix of emotions, and it's made me realize that most sad things have a happy origin, and it's just as easy to focus on that. One of my friends at home used a quote in a video for my going-away party, and I am especially drawn back to the quote now.
This quote reads as follows, "How lucky I am to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard." -A. A. Milne
To any future exchange students out there, I leave you with the following advice. Seize every opportunity that comes your way. Take advantage of each, and every day, and follow you dreams with an inextinguishable passion from the first day you arrive. I know you will be tired, and focused on learning the language, but it is just as important to start visiting all the museums, coffee shops, or whatever else is on your yearlong to do list. The time will be over before you know it.
There will be ups, and downs, and the year will be the hardest year of your life yet. Despite this, it will also be the best, and throughout all the teary-eyed goodbyes you will encounter over your year, at the end you will realize the hard goodbyes were well worth it for each one was balanced by at least one hello, guten tag, bonjour, buenos dias, or whatever language your beautiful host country speaks.
The blog will not stop here, and if you ever have any questions about being on exchange, feel free to reach out.
This photo showcases the long-distance train platforms at my local train station (the second largest in Hamburg). My entire class, and my friends all walked me to the entrance to my school and waved goodbye. Turning my back and riding away on my bike was the hardest thing I've ever had to do. I miss you all already and look forward to coming back and visiting soon.
Have a great weekend, whatever country you happen to currently be in.