It is the 26th of June, 2018 as I write this post. It has been a day of many lasts for me. Last day in school, last visit to my favorite cafe, last time on the bus from my village to Poprad, last time seeing one of my dear friends, last day visiting with my class… I am torn between the sadness of these farewells and my excitement at returning to my family and friends in the US. I’ve never felt a sensation so bittersweet as this—nor been so grateful for the pain. The fact that my exchange is hard to leave only reflects how much this experience has impacted me.
As this post goes live on the 4th of July, I am flying home, five of my most beloved people waiting for me at the airport. When I step off this last airplane and descend the stairs towards them, they year of adventure will end forever. That’s what I find most difficult to accept. I’ve made a life here, of sorts, but I can never go back to being an exchange student in Slovakia. I will carry these experiences and relationships for the rest of my life, but I cannot live the life again. Departing Slovakia is entirely different sort of despair than what I felt when leaving the US.
One way or another, after a successful exchange or (to be frank, not morbid) in a body bag, I would have made it back to the USA and, more than likely, began a life much like the one I had left there. The same can’t be said for Slovakia. It is entirely possible that I may never see my European home again.
Possible, but unlikely. I swear to do everything in my power to return to Slovakia, not just briefly or once, but over numerous and extended stays. As my exchange has come to an end, I’ve realized just how much I still have to see and learn about my little host nation. It may be year away, it may be more, but I look forward to exploring these now familiar mountains and the streets I have called home once more. I will not let Slovakia escape me. It is now a home to me, the equal of any other.
My quest to document my exchange on this blog has taught me much about history, foreign cultures, other peoples and myself. I am nowhere near done with An Eastward Exchange and will continue to write about all of those things here in the coming months. However, you can expect a couple weeks of no content. After I have had time to settle back into life in the US, I will resume posting at a regular interval.
The following is an array of photos from my exchange. It only scratches the surface of all that I experienced, but it is more than enough to make me reminisce.