So- this is it. The days left on exchange in 2016 can’t quite be counted on one hand yet, but what’s the difference when there’s still a monstrous amount of coursework to complete and too many goodbye’s to fit into the dwindling hours. I didn’t want to be overly sentimental writing this- I wanted a fair report of the experience, an objective chronicle. I don’t think I can do that now. All I seem to be able to do is gush and reminisce and rage against the end.
Could any of us have foreseen how this was going to end? I’ve had several conversations over the past months with friends who’ve confided their belief during those lonely first couple of days of exchange that the next half-year was to be a socially barren wasteland of deadlines and homesickness. I felt exactly the same. Contact with home was difficult, owing to the nine hour time difference; but never in my wildest dreams did I imagine that, months later, I would have to remind myself to contact home, that three weeks had elapsed and I could be dead for all my parents know.
I’ve been told that six months is too short for an exchange, twelve months too long. I suspect that’s because halfway through a twelve month exchange you are presented with an entirely new cohort, exciting but at the same time melancholic. Imagine, though, a glitch in our lives that allowed us to greedily suck up another six months with these amazing people. It’s a fantasy that constantly revolves around my head, no signs of abatement.
Insofar as there are regrets (and these are trifles in comparison) it’s that we could always have been just that slightly more productive. Not that I can remember them, but I know that lurking between my rain-drenched memories of Utrecht there were days where, via hangover, laziness or both, I did sweet nothing; perhaps roll around to Albert Heijn for a snack, perhaps not. You couldn’t imagine making it into university, let alone going on an adventure to the Hague or renting out a canoe with your friends. Imagine if you got a do-over on every wasted afternoon.
It seems somehow cruel that, just as the experience is ending and we need to cross the last items off our list and see everyone we need, assignments and examinations should rear their insistent heads. This is a paradigm not dissimilar from the old adage that youth is wasted on the young- that things are somehow backwards, that had we known what we know now…
I appreciate I’ve typed my way towards more wistful territory than I would have liked. What I have been trying to say all along, although I feel that in this particular instance my words will pale compared to the weight of what’s about to happen, is thank you. Thank you to everyone who has made exchange the whimsical experience it was- which, I should mention, is absolutely everyone. Thank you to ESN for their hard work for the semester- I am sure we would all be jellyfishing around Utrecht, friendless and confused, were it not for the lovingly curated semester of activities and parties. I feel like I somehow need to cast the net wider though- that there was something cosmic about this experience that warrants thanks as well. Thank you to anyone who has ever hired me, thus allowing me to save for Utrecht. Thank you great mythical force in the sky, who I’m sure has had something to do with this.
Now it’s over and I’m reflecting on the life-changing six months that have just happened, I can’t help but feel an all-pervading sense of destiny about Universiteit Utrecht, Sem 2 2015/ 16. We were meant to be here. This was a necessary and inevitable stop on life’s journey.
The truth is it was nothing of the sort. Destiny can only be seen in the rear-view mirror, and hindsight is 20/ 20. When we arrived, there was nothing binding us together except the fact that we believed we were hardy enough to endure six months of rain. In a week, we leave. But we have built something here, and it will reverberate throughout both ourselves and the friendships we’ve made here, far far longer than the short time we spent together.
It’s been real, Utrecht.