Thursday, November 21, 2013

days > 100 -- belonging

piece of advice for future exchange students #16:
exchange is not for the faint of heart. if you want to feel incapable,
alone, and generally awkward 24/7 for three months straight, go on exchange.
but you know what?
it gets better.

Something has changed in the past couple weeks. I'm not sure whether it was my 100 days or if it was the fact that I've been learning Swiss German (sort of) or if it was just a sudden, random shift. But somewhere along the way, I stopped feeling like an exchange student.
That doesn't sound quite right.
What I mean is that I stopped feeling like an outsider. I no longer feel like I'm awkwardly on the edge of conversations. I no longer feel like my classmates and friends have to constantly cater to me and my less-than-perfect language skills. I no longer feel like a visitor.
I feel like a part of the class now. 
And maybe that's not quite right, because I know that my communication skills are handicapped and my grades are about average. But somehow that doesn't matter anymore. I'm not sure why. But I don't feel like "the exchange student". I feel like Hannah.
Hannah, who lives in Switzerland and goes to school and learns German.
Hannah, who is finally beginning to belong.

things that have happened in the past 10-ish days:
  • I took school tests. A lot of tests. They were interesting, because I haven't successfully understood a complete test yet... and so lots of times I end up looking at the words I know and guessing at what I think I am supposed to write. It doesn't test my knowledge of the subject as much as it tests my ability to understand what the test says.
  • Oh, and I got a 2 on my French test! This is approximately the equivalent of a D... BUT I'm really happy about it because a) the rest of my class averaged about a 3.5, because it was a hard test and b) my class has had 6 years of French already and I had absolutely none before I came here and c) I wasn't allowed to have my phone during class to translate the words in German or in French, so I was conjugating verbs and finishing sentences without a clear idea of what they meant. Hooray for intuitive language skills! :)
  • thought: I never thought I'd be so happy about a D. Hmm. The things that change on exchange...
  • I received a package from my family! And it had American... THINGS in it! :) I love Switzerland, don't get me wrong, but I do miss the USA a lot. A lot. :/
the end because I am too tired to write anything more.

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