Before you go on exchange, you get lots of advice from lots of people. However, in the excitement, you don’t always listen to it. By which I mean, a combination of denial and overconfidence leads you to simply not believe some of the things people tell you.
They said, “Dunedin gets really cold.”
I said, “Cold is what? 0 degrees Celsius at night? I’m Canadian, I’ll be fine.”
Actually: It’s not the cold outside that gets me, it’s the cold inside. Yes, I’m used to ten, fifteen degrees below zero. But I’m also used to coming inside to a warm house.
They said, “Things are expensive in New Zealand.”
I said, “Well, our dollar’s stronger.”
Actually: Things are expensive in New Zealand.
They said, “Culture shock happens to everyone.”
I said, “Not me. It’s practically the same culture, and anyway, I’ve wanted to go to New Zealand since forever!”
Actually: The core values/essence/whatever of our cultures are similar, but little things throw me. The humour can make this inhibited, polite little Canadian girl squirm even as laughter fights to get out. People walk on the left. Tomato sauce on pizza isn’t a sure thing – you might get apricots and/or barbeque sauce.
They said, “Take a few things from home.”
I said, “That’s silly. Won’t that just make me more homesick?”
Actually: I am SO thankful that I brought my own mug. And getting the Uni Print Shop to blow a photo from Black Creek up to poster size was the best fifteen bucks I ever spent.
They said, “Academics take a back seat on exchange.”
I said, “Not for me, they won’t.”
Actually: Choir conflicts with one of my twice-weekly Conversational Māori lectures. Guess which one gets skipped?
They said, “It will all still be here when you get back.”
I said, “No, it won’t! I’ll be homeless and jobless and everyone will have forgotten me!”
Actually: Last time I checked, the plan was to move back into the same apartment (ha – watch, next month I’ll have a post on “Not Jinxing Things”), and my boss has assured me that she is “counting on” my working again.
They said, “It’ll go by so fast.”
I said, “Pfft.”
Actually: Until this week, six months seemed like forever. Now I only have five. I don’t quite know how that happened – and it seems that time is slipping through my fingers like sand. There’s so many things still to see, to learn, to write, to bake – New Zealand, I’m not done with you yet!