A bit over a week ago, around the time I got to the Netherlands, I passed the four-month mark of my time here in Europe. Since it appears that I'll be over here for a total of around a year, this also means that I've spent just over a third of my time.
It's a little odd that such a sizeable chunk is gone, but what's more odd is that I've only been here for four months, a third of my year in Europe. In many ways, it feels much longer. I've already finished my first semester, with just one more to go, so it seems like I should be half done. However, the second semester is much longer, with more breaks, and then there's the whole summer after that.
The biggest thing, though, is that I feel like I've been an international traveller for longer than four months. Now, sitting in an airport in Brussels, waiting to leave for Budapest, then Bratislava, Vienna, Prague, and finally London, travel has just become part of life. It seems odd that four and a half months ago I hadn't been out of Canada for longer than a week.
My whole mentality towards the world has changed. I guess that's what an exchange is supposed to do-- broaden your perspective. Yes, Canada is a diverse, multicultural country with two official languages and a wide variety of people and landscapes. Still, that's nothing to Europe with its endless variety.
Brussels was a fantastic example of this variety. There are two official languages, French and Flemish (a type of Dutch) and English is also frequently spoken. The friend I stayed with was half Spanish and half Greek, so conversations at their dinner table flowed seamlessly between languages (with the occasional pause to translate something for me-- I could normally follow along, but French puns are still a little beyond me!)
It'll be strange when I go back to Canada and everything will be in English (with a bit of Quebec French). I'll be able to say that I'm from PEI, rather than "Prince Edward Island, an island on the east coast." I won't be able to pop over to another country for a weekend or book a return flight for $50. I'll just have one currency in my wallet, not six, and I won't have to constantly convert everything back to Canadian dollars in my head.
It'll be comforting to go back to Canada. After flying with budget airlines from Brussels to Budapest, AirCanada flights from Charlottetown to Toronto will never seem stressful again! Because, of course, travelling Europe does involve a lot of stress. Constantly meeting new people and being in new places has basically exploded my comfort zone.
And that's a good thing. That's what I wanted this trip to do. And now that it's happened, now that this semi-nomadic life has become the norm, it's weird to think that just four months ago, I was so different.