Two thousand and fifteen was a year of adjustment. Upon returning from my 12 month exchange, I was disorientated and unsure as to how the year would pan out. As I reflect on the past year, I’m pleasantly surprised by all that has occurred.
It was a roller coaster which I had never been on before. Returning home to Australia was awfully surreal, and as if everything was once again brand new. Although, I am now no stranger to reality being shaken up and turned on its head.
Before departing Germany I was asked what seemed like a thousand times if I was looking forward to returning home. My answer was always: I’m looking forward to seeing my family again, and enjoying the summer weather. But no, there was no way in which I was looking forward to coming full circle and stepping back onto a similar aircraft which had brought me to my beloved host country 12 months ago. Sometimes I would tell the truth, but nobody could ever truly understand what Germany meant to me, or what leaving it would mean.
My life as it was in Germany lived on in my memories alone and all I could do was cling tightly onto the reminders of the experiences I did have, as no one else at home had shared them with me. Nobody can underestimate what it’s like to return to the things which were once familiar after living a year abroad. Just like being a stranger in one’s host country in the beginning, it’s just as easy to return a stranger to one’s own country. I found myself not knowing how to navigate my own city anymore. I felt put off when listening to my native language and forlorn when thinking of all the delicious new foods I had grown to love which simply weren’t available anymore.
I departed Germany from Hamburg airport on the 9th of January 2015. The 2 hour drive from Flensburg to the airport certainly was emotional. I distinctly remember bursting into tears the second I drove past my school and saw some of my classmates enjoying their break outside. It rained heavily throughout the entire drive to Hamburg, and little did I know that the weather would persist.
The weather that day caused uncertainty as to whether my flight would be able to take off on schedule, so instead it was brought forward. My Newbies were planning to carry on the tradition of farewelling their Oldies at the airport, just as I had earlier in July. Unfortunately, due to my flight being earlier than expected, they were still travelling down on the train from Flensburg when I took off.
For the duration of the flight, I was numb, hardly believing that my exchange year had come to an end. It felt surreal, particularly as I wasn’t allowed the opportunity to say a final goodbye to some of my closest friends.
I arrived in Sydney on the 11th of January 2015 to an emotional reunion with my Mum, Dad and Grandmother who had been waiting for me overnight. I still couldn’t believe that I had arrived home, even after clearing customs and seeing my family for the first time in 12 months.
After living out of a suitcase the past year, one of the biggest changes which occurred was my sudden compulsion to declutter. Within weeks I had emptied my room of around half its contents, and I haven’t stopped since.
Summer holidays in Australia passed quickly as I tried to get my head around the task at hand. I was to complete Year Twelve. Attempting to finish two years of college in one year seemed daunting to say the least, and I really didn’t know what I was in for.
My first day of school was an orientation day, at which I was only one of two year twelve students. That day, I knew I had made the right decision in electing to attend year twelve, I couldn’t have bore another two years of high school.
Initially, my grades dropped in all of my subjects, however, slowly they did improve. I found myself becoming more and more ambitious and beginning to feel more like the confident exchange student that I knew I was.
I obtained my Learners Drivers License in April, and began the arduous process of learning to drive a manual vehicle. Eventually, I received my Provisional License in early December, which has helped to remedy the sudden loss of independence I experienced post-exchange.
My Year 12 Graduation Ceremony and Formal events were both fitting ways to finally farewell thirteen years of education. Both occurred during the same week, and I couldn’t stop smiling throughout. Completing Year 12 marked the end of an era, and the beginning of something new. After attending the same school for the majority of my schooling career, I’m looking forward to what this new season will bring.
Once again, I handmade my own gown to wear to the Formal. The bodice was kindly given to me, still intact, by a relative. Originally, it was a dirty brown colour which was then dyed black to become the dark navy colour seen in the following images. The most difficult step was to find fabric for the skirt in the same colour. The whole dress was constructed within a single week following my final exams and preceding the Formal. I wore one of my Grandmother’s beautiful brooches, paired with a metallic glow-mesh style purse. I arrived at the Formal in my Grandfather’s vintage Austin Cambridge, which I also travelled in for my Year Ten Formal in 2013. All in all it was a fantastic night of celebrations, which did live up to my expectations.
In addition to sewing my own formal gown, I completed my final year of Textiles classes. My final project is that which I am most proud of, an intricate patch-worked dress constructed entirely of recycled cream and white coloured fabrics. I wore the finished garment to a wedding I attended with my family in December.
Ultimately, I have achieved my Number One goal of 2015: this January I accepted an early offer to study at the Australian National University. I shall be undertaking a double degree in International Security Studies and Languages (German and Japanese).
Throughout 2015, I have not only adjusted to a new life in Australia, but thrived. Here’s to and new season and many, many more adventures to come.