Monday, 18 February 2013

Home from Home

We are used to saying "there's no place like home". What we forget is that there might be more than one place that feels like home. In case of a foreign student, there exist two homes. There is the "original" one where we wear pyjamas, walk in slippers and deny washing dishes after the dinner. Then there is this other home abroad that makes one want to breathe the air of a different world, to meet people from around the planet and to feel life in one's veins. That is the second home, the home from home that can never be forgotten and never be truly abandoned.
Some people wonder why anyone would voluntarily take care of a foreign student and all of his problems, duties and tasks to be done. Other people wonder why anyone would dedicate their free time to a presentation of their student lives abroad without being given any credits for it. And there are also people who wonder why a song makes someone cry, why a movie makes someone sit in bed for hours browsing old photographs, or why a single picture makes someone loan for an instantaneous come back to the past. What they lack in their understanding is the studying-abroad experience. They hear a song and they do not see their best Czech friend playing it on a guitar as a gift before the final departure. They watch a movie and do not recall all those innumerable movie nights and philosophical debates on life with a bunch of openly content friends. They do not dream about reverting the past and reliving some of the best months in one's life, about a single ride on a bike at 4 in the morning, about being locked in a park in the evening, about not having internet for two months, about being lost at the university every other day, about watching burning fireworks being reflected on the lake during the firework festival, about coming to a party following an African dress code and being mistaken for an immigrant, about walking the wrong way on elevator or sending your professor to hell just because you do not hear the slight but apparently very important difference in pronunciation. It simply is about laughing like a fool all day long because even if nothing works, you are happy the way it is. Studying abroad is a perfect combination of being absolutely amazed by how badly things may go with enjoying every single minute spent in a special world with special people. Those who left their homes for a foreign country understand that by leaving one home they were going to find another. 

 It is not, however, only about finding your second home. The beauty of being a student at a foreign university is the funny opportunity of gaining yet another home – a third one in a row. As a little child, you live with parents in your home land. As a grown-up student, you decide to live abroad and study at a foreign university. And finally, as a university student abroad you are offered numerous chances to go even more abroad and be even more foreign and get your life even more perfect – through all the various exchange programmes there are. Basically, you leave home to find a home that you can temporary leave for another home. Nothing sounds more experience-and-widening-your-horizons-like than the above.
What is more, only those who found their second homes may fully comprehend what studying abroad means. The greatest problem in describing life at a foreign university to those who have not gone through it is based on a tiny but crucial fact – the fact that actual understanding lies entirely in the land of one's feelings. Strong empathy and wild imagination, even when combined with a perfect description of what it is like, can never percept the dreamy nature of that period. That is the reason why people from around the world who left their homes to study abroad understand each other – because they feel the same and have lived through the same. They all have this sudden rush of feelings, nostalgic shivers, or excitement when coming across an obscure reminder of their past.
Imagine you are walking down the street and when passing a bunch of students you realize that they are talking in English or some other foreign language. What you do is you smile widely and say with the most honest excitement: "Hey! You're foreign students!" And what is the reaction you get back? - Confused looks and a silent confirmation of your statement. They are students from abroad indeed, and even though they do not get it now, they soon will. They will understand as soon as their studies are over. And then one day they will come up to a bunch of students speaking foreign languages and say with the most honest excitement: "Hey! You're foreign students!" Because that is the way it goes. You come, you live, you love and you leave, while your heart stays there forever.