Before I left for India I wrote out a list of fears. A large fear was not being able to go, since everything was short-notice, but after that I also felt general anxiety. I knew going was what I needed the most at that moment (I already felt worn out after only a month and a half of school and have been wanting to experience a different culture and step outside my comfort zone for years) and that I just needed to get on the plane. It was weird to think about how on January 27th, 2015 standing in the Vancouver airport yet again I would be a different person. I’m still so excited for that moment.
Based on what others told me and my own thoughts my greatest fears included:
-expectations (people will think that I know more or should know more than I do)
-failing those expectations
-lack of knowledge
-being taken advantage of
-failing some tests for the information I should know
-not being myself (as I felt before I left)
-not being taken under anyone’s wing (not having support system)
-not being someone’s support system
The day I left as I was in the airport I stood in line and talked my best friend through some of her troubles. It was already hard to be away. I want to be with my loved ones and I want them to have support. I want them to have replacements for me, but I want to be there for them instead. Leaving is a hard line to walk. I’ve lived in more houses than I can count, been to 8 different schools in 6 different cities and never stayed in a place for longer than two years. Leaving is not new to me. However, I am not used to returning. One of the hardest parts in leaving Quest for me was thinking about my return and how the community would change without me while I was away.
I reflected on the reasons for my exchange when I arrived on campus and had a bit of time before the other students arrived. I thought of the opportunities present to me. Mostly my main reasons for coming include:
-Learning about my culture (my mom is Indian, although she and my grandparents were born and raised in Africa and then Canada).
-Stepping outside my comfort zone
-Seeing Canada with a different lens (fun to do an ethnographic of study of Canada through what happens in India)
I have been asked frequently since being here what my reasons are and I created this list:
-Needed a break
-Want to be uncomfortable
-Want to learn about my heritage
-Want to learn about my culture through being outside of it
-Want to change my mindset
-Want to really investigate what underlies things that I would consider absurd.
-Liberal education = education style that I really enjoye (FLAME = Foundation for Liberal and Management Education)
I wrote another fear my second day on campus after meeting two women at dinner, one who is a teacher originally from America who has taught around the world and the other originally from England now living here working at an NGO teaching young girls science, after we spoke about how this experience was going to change me. I was afraid I would not be changed. Everything was so manageable. All the culture shock happened in such small quantities that it didn’t feel like a shock, it felt like wading into a pool. I felt like I was not being challenged enough although it was hard to be alone as an exchange student in that we could not struggle together or bond as foreigners.
It’s tricky to write about how I felt two weeks ago, but would like a point of reflection before I speak about my transformation.
I’m looking forward to continuing my journey here and am shocked at how much I have already changed.
More to follow.