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The Jumping Off Point

January 2017. My final month in Ottawa, the city where I was born and raised. I was set to embark on February 10th for my year of exchange, and the only thing between me and Santiago was a school-free month to say farewell to friends and family, pack my bags, and relax a bit before heading off. Seemed like a piece of cake at the time. Oddly enough, January turned out to be one of the more challenging months, mentally and emotionally, that I have experienced in the past few years of my life. I imagine that some of you reading this have gone through that strange and emotionally complex period of time where all you can think of is a date on a plane ticket and what awaits you beyond it, and perhaps those who have will relate to some of what I write about in this blog. However, for those who have not yet gone on exchange, or perhaps are waiting to depart this summer, I hope that this post can help prepare you for what many people (including myself) often overlook about moving abroad; the final moments prior to embarking. Let’s call them the Jumping Off Point.

For some of you, it may be a month or so between finishing exams in December and leaving on exchange in January. For some of you, it may the entire summer between second and third year. Some of you may not experience the Jumping Off Point at all. Nevertheless, there is a period prior to departure where you may start to feel as if you are living in limbo. For me, it was January. While I was still very much living in Canada (believe me, I couldn’t leave the house without wearing five layers), mentally all I could only think about was being in Chile. It was a confusing month. I felt out of place, as if everything I was doing (catching the game with a friend, taking the dog for a walk, helping plan an event) wasn’t leading to anything, since I would be moving to another hemisphere in a few weeks anyways. It was frustrating at times, as I felt like taking this year abroad was just cutting into the progression of my life. I would be leaving friends and family behind, putting aside any school and job opportunities in Canada, and moving to a city (and country) where I would barely know anybody or anything about how things worked. It was a daunting period of time, especially as I had spent my entire life up to that point living in Ottawa. The month went by as a rollercoaster ride of constantly changing outlooks and emotions.

Days went by where I itched to pack my bags and get on a plane, the only thoughts on my mind revolving around what awaited me in Chile. There were also days where you could have woken me up and told me that the exchange had been cancelled, and I would have let out a sigh of relief.

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Nice to Meet You All

in this post: I will describe why this blog is a thing that is happening

Hello Blog Readers.

Welcome to an experiment. I will start this blog series off by saying that I have never blogged before in my life. I have barely been able to keep a journal going for more than a few weeks. I have always found it basically impossible to write in any sort of reflective manner without sounding a) overly introspective/neurotic, b) like I’m trying too hard to be funny, or c) really annoying. So bear with me on this one.

My name is Isaac, I am a 20-year-old Canadian university student on exchange for the year in Santiago, Chile. I spent my entire life up to this point living in my hometown of Ottawa, Ontario, where I went to elementary, middle and high school and spent the first two years of my university career. Moving to a new school, in a new city, in a new country, in a new continent is what many people would call a “huge life step,” so hopefully it will also provide me with interesting content to write about.

I’ve started this blog for a number of reasons. First off, I was asked by my school to write a few blogs for their website, as a part of an ongoing exchange student blog project. I thought it would be interesting to take that further, and create a page of my own where I could post content more regularly and in multiple forms. Secondly, coming from a large Jewish family, I am already dreading the prospect of having to separately explain how my year was to every individual member of my extended family (whom I love very much of course) upon returning to Canada. I hope that this blog will help to preemptively answer some of the questions I inevitably will receive when I get home in December. Lastly, I’m aiming for this blog to help describe and articulate the whirlwind of excitement, confusion, frustration, and elation that living in a new culture can put you through. Maybe it will help some of you down the road, maybe it will help me by forcing me to reflect on my experiences; who knows!

With that being said, I’ll keep this intro short and sweet! Hasta luego, and I hope to see you all at the next post!