Julia: Leaving UGA – “Once a dawg, always a dawg”

Earlier this morning I packed up and said my final goodbyes to UGA. I’m going to be honest here, I’m really struggling to write this; to find the words to do justice to the last 6 months. I don’t want to over-state it, as I am fully aware that this might not be everyone’s exchange experience, but this has truly been the best 6 months of my life; it was everything I’d hoped for and so much more. Athens has become home. The friends I have made here have become family.

Having known people who had been on exchange before me I thought I knew what to expect, but I really didn’t anticipate how tough it would be to leave. However, I have begun to realize that how I’m feeling is an indication of the importance of what I am leaving behind, the significance of the time I have had here. To avoid this blog turning into a soppy mess I’ve decided to use this final entry to debunk some myths I once thought about exchange, now that I am at the end of this experience. Hopefully it’s helpful to you!

Some of my exchange family on game day!

1.“Going on Exchange Changes you”

I don’t think exchange changes you so much as brings out the best in you. It brought to light things that I’d taken for granted in NZ, habits I hadn’t realized existed, complacency that had developed in relationships and the monotony of my study life and encouraged me to alter these things. Taking yourself out of your usual context for a period of time is so healthy in the way it opens your mind and encourages you to reflect

2. “I’ll be lonely/I’ll struggle to make friends”

Again, everyone has a slightly different exchange experience, but I honestly think that making friends on exchange is about going in with the right attitude. From my experience, If you make the effort to invest in people, step outside of your comfort zone, involve yourself in student life and say yes to the opportunities that come your way (especially in the first few weeks of exchange!) then you shouldn’t have problems building a community around you.

My intermural volleyball team- we made it to semi-finals!

3. So you leave, and then it’s all over?

 I was struggling with the thought of returning to NZ for honestly the last 2 months of my exchange, not wanting my time at UGA to end. While it’s now over, what I am absolutely certain of is that this experience doesn’t end here. Yes, the actual exchange is just for a period of time, but as cliché as it may sound, I know that the experiences I’ve have, the friends I’ve make and the memories I’ve formed will last a lifetime. Once a dawg, always a dawg!

A friend of mine insisted that we take senior pictures, as I am graduating on return to UoA!

Thanks for following my journey, friends. I am deeply grateful to 360 International for the opportunity to go on exchange and genuinely could not recommend it more highly! As always, feel free to reach out if you have any questions at all!

Arohanui,

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