I bet anyone who has ever experienced student exchange has ever experienced being so lost and incredibly home sick for what seems like forever. However, just the thought of finally being able to be an adult in all of your decision-makings without consulting your parents can be really exciting. I can still remember how excited I was to pack for Oman and I was counting on days till I can “finally live” in a foreign country. Just the thought of being independent was always electrifying to me. I remember back when I was away for the first time, my brothers were the first people that came to mind as soon as my plane landed in Oman’s runway. I had a cheat when I first travelled away, only because both my parents followed me to Oman and we said our goodbyes at the departure gate days after we settled in.
Looking back now, the moment when we first arrived in Oman that morning, I was looking at my watch and it was still in Brunei time which was around 2pm. Immediately the thought of my brothers and what were they are doing at that time that made me miss them even more. I remember I could not wait to get wifi service so that I can FaceTime them or even send a text to let them know we are okay.
The day when we finally get the time to nap after the excruciatingly long flight, I, on the other hand, resided to instagram and check all the pictures of my family and friends back at home. A comment from a family member brought tears to my eyes. All he said was to take care, and call him immediately when I settled in. And that was it, I weep hard. I was bawling too hard my eyes were swollen until the next day.
Now I’m feeling somewhat nostalgic of being away; of having to live independently and growing more confident every single day as it forces you to be the adult version of yourself without your parents on sight to properly guide you. I remember the night before my parents left, my mother wrote me a letter which I fully regret not reading it immediately after she departed. It was a letter of her reminding me not to be the “scrooge” version of myself that she normally sees at home. In summary, the letter concludes of her and my dad reminding me to not neglect our Creator, and to always turn to him whenever I feel down or astray or basically yearning for what feels familiar to me. They also reminded me that since I now live with a roommate, who was completely alien to me, as I have never, shared a room with anyone growing up, and my parents reminded me to learn how to compromise. This is a normal occurrence for me as I am never the person who likes to share. Especially when it comes to my personal space such as my bedroom. Pre-student exchange life, I have always enjoyed my alone time. I am always that person who goes to the movies alone, who goes eating her lunch alone in public and goes to the saloon alone. Its not that I don’t like having company, but I have just grown accustomed to being by myself.
Then student exchange came about, thus out with the old, and in with the new adjustment. I guess that’s what all of us must face in life; adjustments. We adjust and adapt to a new living environment. Even though for just a short period of time.
Going back to my regret in not opening the letter as soon as my parents departed; a memory that I will forever carry with me and a memory that I will forever learn from is when “I fell in the dark hole” while I was away from whatever that feels comfortable for me.
Everyone around me has told me the danger of having a roommate. One person once told me, “You will never know someone until you are forced to live with him or her for months, and then his or her true colours seeped through”. If only I carry what she told me in mind whilst I was still there.
This dark hole I mentioned earlier on was when my roommate and I had a disagreement on things. This happened at the very end of our stay when we only had a few weeks left before we left Oman. The disagreement went very unpleasant and tense at a very high speed and we didn’t speak to one another like we normally did for at least 3-4 days. Not until we had to deliver a speech and a presentation about our stay in Oman that we figured to just be an adult about it and power through.
That was when I needed home the most. I yearned for my own space, my own tiny room for one and all around, and my own personal space. That was when I needed to be home the most so that I can do whatever I please without being an annoyance to anyone. Being away made all of us be more aware that we have other people to consider. Especially their time, their feelings and their emotions. Not that we don’t do that when we’re home, but being away further amplifies more at the fact that you’re completely alone and you have no one to turn to. I found that I was more vulnerable when I was away. I would take a tiny single spec of details and made it into something huge, and in the end, we could be arguing about a piece of bread that I’d save for later which you had devour without even consulting me first.
After Oman, I learned a lot about myself and about other people. And when the second part of my student exchange came, I was more than ready to conquer calmly and rationally. Alhamdulillah, I was blessed with 5 international housemates who understand each other’s boundaries and who were the exact version of ourselves.
Because I was blessed with 5 incredible housemates, I was rarely homesick when I was in Japan. I was always “on the go” and it was my family who had to constantly ask how I’ve been doing, or have I eaten lunch/dinner and so forth. However, spending your first Ramadhan and Eid alone away from home can be really sad. 2015 was my first time spending Syawal and Ramadhan without my family. I have to admit, it was pretty sad to be spending it thousands of miles away from home. But there’s always a silver lining to everything. I wasn’t completely alone; I spent the whole first day of Syawal with my version of a family here in Japan.