The Bravest Choice I Ever Made

By Giuditta Barbieri, international student from Italy studying at Burnaby Mountain Secondary School

Going on an exchange year is a risk. It is like jumping off a cliff blindfolded. You have no idea of what will happen in the next ten months, what difficulties you will encounter, what sort of people you will meet, how much you will miss home… it is like falling into a black hole, you never know where you will land. I arrived in Canada almost three months ago; it seems so long but at the same time, it feels like time has flown away. I had no idea what I should expect. I was excited, but a little scared as well. I still am sometimes. But do I regret making this choice? Absolutely NOT.

Going on an exchange year is one of the bravest choices you will ever make. It means leaving everything you built in your life and to start all over again. It means losing your family and your friends for a year to go and find yourself. It means to understand how different the world is and how crazy it is that so many different cultures can live on only one planet.

Every day I have the opportunity to discover something new about others, about myself. Every day I face new challenges, some of those I thought I would never be able to face. Being on the other side of the world made me realize that humans are capable of such amazing things, they just have to find the strength to make them happen.

Every day I feel stronger, I discover myself more and more, and there is no bigger satisfaction than getting to know yourself and find out how amazing you are. Being an exchange student changes you.

In only three months, I see the people I met the first day radically changed. Maybe it is the fact that we have to solve our problems without our parents’ help, maybe because being away from home makes you realize so many important things that you start forgetting others.

We are who we are based on our values and our mentality. When those two components of our existence change, we change with them. I realized that what I am going to wear on Saturday night is not one of the biggest dilemmas of my life.

The things that I used to worry about at home are now insignificant. I learnt to enjoy little things, moments, situations… I learnt how to deal with my flaws and my insecurities, trying day by day to accept myself for what I am. I learnt that I am an amazing human being and that there is nothing that can come in my way except for myself.

I am strong. I am fearless. I am happy. I am finally alive.

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