The answer to that is yes. I’m determined not to become one of those blogs that mysteriously stops right before the highly anticipated first in-country post. Those kinds of blogs used to make me SO frustrated, but now I totally get it. When you’re at home, waiting for your exchange, writing blogs of everything vaguely exchange related becomes your way of actually feeling like exchange is real. Once you’re there, it almost loses its charm. I’ve been so busy, it’s difficult to sit down and write the megapost that I know I need to, but I also know I’ll regret it if I don’t document this year in some way.
So I’ve been here for well over a month now, and quite a lot has happened since then. Obviously I can’t tell you every detail of every single day like I originally planned to do, but I’ll try to give a…general overview. I’ll start with some basics. My host family is amazing and I couldn’t be more grateful to them if I tried. They feel like a real family and I’m so lucky to be living with them! Yes, the food here is absolutely amazing and incredibly cheap compared to food in the USA (like, less than 50 cents to about 5 dollars is the average snack/meal price; a Happy Meal is less than $3 compared to the $4.50 in NC). Yes, I go to language classes and yes, I am picking up the language (speaking it is much harder than understanding it). Yes, I talk to my family almost every day and no, texting them every day does not make me homesick and does not detract from my exchange. Yes, it is easy to spend way too much money while on exchange. No, I’m not really homesick yet. Yes, you do hit a bored stage about a month in. Yes, I’m closer with the other exchange students than the locals. And yes, I go to school entirely in Croatian.
I don’t want to have a blog post dedicated to my school classes or how often I Skype my family because I really doubt anyone cares about that, especially future exchange students. What I will say about the family thing is, choose what’s best for you. I know that Rotary advises you to not talk to anyone for a full month after calling to say you’ve arrived safely but in my personal experience that wouldn’t have worked for me at all. It works much better to briefly text my parents every day and Skype them once a month. For other people, they Skype more often or text less often or really do go no contact for a month, and that’s okay. I know that I would be MORE homesick if I didn’t at least say hi every day, and that’s completely okay. You do you on that.
I drink a lot more coffee. I put a lot more effort into my appearance. I go out a lot more often. I spend a lot more time studying than anticipated (language, not schoolwork). I don’t talk to my friends at home very much (they see my Snapchats and I see theirs but that’s about it). Sometimes I feel completely frustrated and want to give up and go home. I make stupid mistakes when speaking Croatian sometimes. I trip up and embarrass myself. I spend most of my time at school staring off into space because, let’s face it, no matter how much people tell you to focus, it’s not realistic to focus on a language you can’t understand for 6 hours every day. I try to study by myself at least an hour or two per day. I spend most of my time out with the other exchange students. I have local friends from school that I’m grateful to for accepting me into their group and I love going out for coffees with them after school, but it’s always easier to spend time with people going through the same struggles as you.
Above all else, I’m happy. I’m happy when I’m stuck in a crowded tram on a rainy day, happy when I have to wake up early for school, happy when my feet are getting blisters from walking so much, happy when I’m freezing because I decided to wear a skirt in the cold, happy when I spend my entire day on the couch marathoning Scandal with my host sister, and happy when I’m sitting in a cafe with Delaney or Annalise or Jannik or Jonah or Abby or Peri or Riley, sharing stories about our host families and our schools and our local friends and everything that’s come to make up our insane, hectic lives. I wouldn’t trade this for the world.
Also, the much anticipated list of differences:
Orange toilet paper
Lunch is the main meal of the day
Everyone shakes hands when they meet for the first time
Different ways to say “hello” to different people
People start smoking at 13/14, school has smoke breaks
People start going out at 15 or 16
No leggings in public
Always wear socks/slippers in the house
Don’t go out with wet hair
Street vendors sell corn, not hot dogs or anything
“Having a coffee” means drinking coffee for 10 minutes and then gossiping for 6 hours
School is shorter and is sometimes in the afternoon
Girls can walk alone at like 1am and not be worried for safety
A LOT less fast food. A LOT.
Until next time,