About this iReport
  • Not verified by CNN

  • Click to view danitimi2's profile
    Posted March 15, 2014 by
    Zurich, Switzerland
    This iReport is part of an assignment:
    Why study abroad? Ask Michelle Obama

    More from danitimi2

    Becoming mature in Australia

    24 hours. That’s what it takes to get to Australia. I remember saying goodbye to my parents full of excitement and optimism. However, when you’re on that plane, you think a lot. And trust me, 24 hours is a horrible lot of time to think when you’re alone. So at the beginning, obviously I looked forward to meeting my host family and I was very thrilled to begin a new life. As time went by (maybe 8 hours into the trip and I was feeling quite lonely during that stage) I started asking myself “What is the worst that could happen to me?” “What if they don’t like me?” “Why am I doing this? I had such a good life back home” And these are all the kind of questions you shouldn’t think about, but you think about them, because you are scared of failing and thinking about failing doesn’t make it better, but you’re stuck on that plane alone, so you can’t really avoid thinking. It’s a doom loop.

    Eventually I arrived and to be honest all that fear of failing just went away as soon as I met my host dad. He was a friendly, open and very warm person, hence my first impression of Australians was a very nice one.
    I was welcomed by everyone not only in the family, but also at school. Australians are very accepting of other cultures and also extremely interested in them, so I didn’t find it difficult to settle in. At the beginning of the year I bounded very close to other exchange students, as we had a lot in common and shared our feelings and thoughts with each other. I found this to be a very remarkable characteristic of exchange students. An exchange year brought us all much closer and even today, I am fascinated by how big this network of exchange participants is and how easy and lovely it is to share experiences with them.
    Throughout the entire year I also came across many culture shocks. Even if Australia is a Western society, there are key differences between a Swiss and an “Aussie”. Probably the most exotic was their perception of life. In Switzerland people “live to work” whereas in Australia they “work to live”. Their lifestyle is much more laid-back and they take life as it comes. Personally, this changed me in a very profound way: I’m certainly more relaxed in the sense that I learned to say “that’s life!” and get on with it.

    Another very curious culture shock was their humour. They joke about themselves and love using irony when they do so. For example, when I was going to Canberra I asked the driver how long it would take. And he said “just a bit”. After four hours I finally got there. Or another time, when there was this massive spider with a perfectly built spider-web in the main entrance of the house, I asked my host dad if he didn’t want to kill it. So he replied “Don’t worry Daniel, if you don’t bother it, it won’t bother you.”

    The relationship between my host family and me was very honest, caring and most of all positive. I loved them as if they were my natural family and still consider that place my home. And I know I am very fortunate to have had a family like that, because sometimes the chemistry just doesn’t match and you get replaced. But the case is, and I profoundly believe in it, that every exchange student will find his second home, even if the start is bumpy.

    By the end of my exchange, I had made many friends and was now fully integrated into Australian lifestyle. My English was at its all-time high and all the experiences were worth the long travel time.
    24 hours - again. But this time, I was prepared. I knew what to expect when I said goodbye to my host family. It was a teary, yet beautifully touching moment.

    Exchange wasn’t always like a walk through wonderfully paved streets. They were rough, uneven and sometimes not even there. You had to build your own way and with every day that passed by, with every 24 hours of your exchange, you added little bits and pieces that helped paving that street and made me who I am now.
    The one thing I really think defines exchange is time. Time is just one of those things that everyone takes for granted and yet it still ticks away faster and faster.

    In the next 24 hours I would have time to say bye to that “new” life. So these for many people insignificant 24 hours, turned out to be the climax of my exchange. I had plenty of time to think and ask myself those good old questions again. However, there was one question that stood out: “If I could redo this year, would I have done every single thing again?”
    This is where you grow optimism. This is where you gain confidence. This is where you become mature and realise how beautiful exchange is.

    And even today I like to refer myself to as an Australian.
    Add your Story Add your Story