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.