The last week is like an endless chain of goodbyes. Farewell cards, hugs, plans about next times we meet - daily. The last day goes by in a rush. Suitcases move from one place to another, the door to my room closes for one last time. The bus follows the same familiar route through the city and I still cannot understand that I am actually leaving. I bid my last farewells at the airport and late during the same night I fall asleep in my own bed at home. The next day the moving truck trails north and the snow-covered Rovaniemi welcomes me. Familiar faces greet me and for a moment it feels like I had never left.
Returning to the same old familiar apartment in Rovaniemi feels both relieving and distressing. Life here has barely changed at all and things take place in the same old pace. Constancy feels safe and diving back to the rhythm of everyday life feels easy. At the same time, I find myself viewing these easy and safe everyday things from a new perspective. To put it in another way, the world around me has hardly changed, but I have.
I am writing this column as I sit on the floor of my apartment, sipping tea from a familiar mug. The familiar pieces of furniture are almost in their former places and I am the king of my own castle. Within these walls my own peace dwells and within these walls I have felt comfortable. Now I am not so sure if the same peace dwells within me. Just within a few days I have been pulled out from the place I had started considering my home and then planted in the same place I left over four months ago.
I have known this rapid change would take place from the beginning but I still could not prepare for it. Somehow I have still not properly realized that things have changed. Packing for leaving and saying goodbyes to people felt numb, like nothing. I performed these tasks mechanically and did not stop to think whether I would meet these people again. Now that I am sitting alone in my apartment I have stopped to think. I wish I was wrong but I know that out of the people I spent so much time with there are some I will never meet again.
My mind is filled with sorrow and joy. Rest and restlessness. Laughter and cry. The extremities of the emotional scale roll over each other like waves in a storm. My mind is filled with memories from the exchange, time before the exchange and everything feels foggy. The memory of leaving is still too raw to be handled with reason. Instead, I think of all the things I have experienced within the last four months - and what I have not experienced.
’I have been brought up to be a responsible person. That is why I have thought every time when people have gone out to party or hang out whether I should rather stay home and read. Many times I have chosen to stay instead of going. I am not bothered about having taken care of my responsibilities but sometimes I have set myself limits that are too tight. Despite that, I now feel like I have taken leaps to the unknown more times than in a long while before. This has always proven to have been worth it. It has made me happy.’
A midnight conversation from the last week in Uppsala echoes inside my head. It shows the essence of my exchange. Sometimes it was filled with the responsibilities of exchange studies, the actual studies. I enjoyed them and I know they will be beneficial for my future. Some other times my exchange has been full of those joys that one assumes can only be experienced by changing the scenery. In the middle of a foreign culture and strange people one finds new sides about oneself. One finds new sides about people. One appreciates things in a new way. One enjoys them in a new way. One appreciates home in a new way, too.
Now I am back home, on the floor of my apartment and for now, I write my last public words about my exchange. I wish to dedicate them to You, whether you have been reading about my ventures on your screen or whether you have been there in person, in Uppsala, changing me and my life. This chapter in the book of life I will never be able to forget.
Tack och adjö!