In a land far, far away

After being back in Winnipeg for over two months, I feel like I have had enough time to get back into my normal life that I can now write about the things I miss and do not miss about my exchange in Koper, Slovenia. I can honestly say that this exchange was the best five months of my life thus far. Sometimes it even feels that the whole thing never happened at all. You get so close so fast with so many people and then it’s all over; it’s disorientating and surreal.

Things I will miss include, first and foremost, the friends I have made. Even after two months, it still feels very strange to not see them everyday and every night.

As I had mentioned in a previous column, it’s like having a replacement family, and just like your actual family they worry about where you are and how you’re getting home, they monitor your fried cheese and beer intake for the week and they miss you when you’re gone.

I overheard one girl, while saying her final goodbyes, explain that, had she known it would have been this hard to leave, she would have seriously thought about not going. Now, I am not as dramatic as that, but I do understand her point.

I will miss the sea and the mountains, and being able to see both within the same afternoon. I will miss the ease in which travel is possible and the options that are available. I will miss my cheap and amazing food tickets, probably more than I would like to admit.

To this day, I get mad when a night out for food and drinks costs me thirty dollars or more.
I will miss having my own tiny crappy apartment, and all of you who have moved out of home and have then had to move back in will know exactly what I am talking about.

I love my family, but having my own space and home was wonderful.

I will especially miss being almost completely carefree; with no job and not much schoolwork to do, these past months were probably the most relaxing I will have until . . . well . . . possibly ever. Depressing to think about, but some people will never get their chance to live like that, so I am thankful I had that time however brief it was.

Things I will not miss include anything having to do with government paperwork or matters involving university administration. I’m not exactly sure why both government offices and both universities made everything so difficult for us.

Getting study visas was the most complicated and expensive process of all, and I never even ended up getting mine. The educational part of the program was not very well planned, most obviously because our professor did not reside in the same city as us. I would not have wanted to live in the capitol city but for this specific program it would have made much more sense.

I will not miss the slow service at cafés and restaurants; twenty minutes to get the bill for two coffees? Seriously, what is that? Fifteen minutes in line at the grocery store where there are only two people in front of me? I swear I spent half of my five months in line at that stupid store, grumbling the only Slovenian curse words I know under my breath . . . no wonder tips are nonexistent there.

And lastly, I will not miss the gloomy overcast of saying goodbye.

As much fun as we were all having, we knew it had to end at some point. There would always be one person that, in the middle of an excellent night out, would say, “I’m going to miss you so much when we all leave!” Then the waves of “Ugh!” “Noooo!” and “Stop it!” would wash over the dance floor and we would all continue to ignore the inevitable.

Here are my last few tips for those of you would-be exchangers:

Be prepared for lots of stuff to go wrong. Take it with a grain of salt and chalk it up to life experience. As long as you have your passport and a credit card, you are good to go.

Do not lose your passport or credit card!

Take every chance you get to travel somewhere or talk with someone from a different place
than you.

Exchange information with all the non-sketchy people — and maybe some sketchy people, depending on how you roll — you meet! Free places to stay for future trips are invaluable.

Be friendly, but not stupid.

Have fun, go out and do things; you are only with this group of people for a short time so enjoy it!

Don’t worry about money too much, because you can always earn more later.

So, would I suggest taking the opportunity to study abroad if the chance should come up? Yes!
But definitely do not go for the scholarly aspect. Would I do it again? No. For me, once was enough; doing another exchange would remove the uniqueness of this experience.

Hopefully this grouping of articles has inspired and informed some of you who want to take the plunge and experience something new in a land far, far away!