Morag’s ‘once in a lifetime’ Exchange
“The first two days of exchange was probably two of the most emotional days of my life.
From leaving my parents in a puddle of tears in Hobart, Tasmania to meeting my fellow exchange student Elisabeth in tears of joy in Guangzhou, China. Then meeting my Chinese host family for the first time and facing the reality of it all, thinking ‘ I am going to be living in China for the next five months’. Obviously, you are super excited at the beginning but then as soon as you are alone in your new bedroom the homesickness kicks in, I mean really kicks in. I am sure every exchange student can relate to this indescribable feeling, the feeling of every possible emotion in the world hitting you all at once. The only thing that will cure your homesickness is to distract yourself. I went to the local supermarket with my host mum and it helped so much, just seeing what your new neighbourhood looks like, from street signs to street food, she pointed out everything to me and it made me feel so much better. The first few days of my exchange were hard, they were but after the first 3-4 days you start to settle in a lot more.
Starting school really helps that process. Getting yourself into a routine of waking up at a certain time in the morning and then getting home at a certain time. In the first week of going to school, I realised that if I didn’t get up by 6:35am then there was no chance of me getting to school on time! Its little things like these that make you realise you are becoming more accustomed to your new life in China. My school is called Zhengzhong, it is the biggest school that I have ever seen. I am in grade 1 class 11, my class has nearly 70 students and in my year group, there are 24 classes. School is very different in China compared to Australia, the hours, the type of classes, the style of teaching, the students attitude towards school. In Australia I go to school at 9 am and finish at 3:30pm, in China they start at 5:45 am and don’t finish sometimes until 10:30pm. One of the other main differences between school in Australia and school in China is the attitude that the students have towards school and towards their work. In Australia most students would do anything to try and get out of doing work or going to school, some students will deliberately come to class late so they don’t have to do work. In China, students will do anything in their power to learn as much as they can, everyone tries to be the first student in the classroom and the last to leave.
Weeks go by and suddenly I realise that it was been one month since I first arrived. Another emotion runs through me, one that I haven’t experienced yet, it’s when I become aware of the fact I don’t have that long to go until I go home. I realise that I am going to miss my home here, in China before now I have only missed my home back in Australia, I thought that there would be no chance of me ever missing my home in China but now I know that I will. Simply because of the people here. My family, my friends, not just the other exchange students but my classmates.
Now having completed nearly half of my exchange, it is coming to a point where I have more days crossed off to say how long I have been here than the days I haven’t crossed off. Until now I didn’t know how fast my exchange would go by but it does, it goes by so quickly. At the beginning of my exchange, when I was homesick, I thought that I would be happy to see the days tick by but I just want them to stop. I want to have more time here with my host family and my friends, I don’t want it all to end so soon.
Although I have only been here for two months I have managed to accomplish a lot of my goals in which I had set for myself whilst on my exchange. I have made some incredible friends, I have created a close relationship with my host family, I have continued to improve my Chinese language skills, I have studied hard and I have had a lot of fun. I still have two months to go until my exchange ends and I still have many goals that I have yet to achieve but I am positive that I will fulfill most, if not all of my goals. One of them being to pass HSK level 3 which I am taking on the 21st of May.
I am excited to continue my exchange over the next two months but I am also sad to see how quickly everything is coming to an end, but we mustn’t dwell on the negatives, we must think positively. This has truly been a trip of a lifetime, I can’t wait to see what the final two months have in store for all of us.”
Written by Morag, SCCE Exchange Student