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Tuesday, September 28, 2021

Column: Out of California

“When are you leaving?”

Nowadays that’s the most common question you hear at exchange students’ get-togethers. We’re going home very soon and everyone’s freaking out. If you thought it was bad two months ago when I started writing this column, imagine what’s happening now.

So how are we coping? Mostly by doing all the things we like to do together: socializing, dancing, eating, watching movies. There are also other things to worry about: planning last trips, all our stuff fitting into our suitcases, selling stuff that has accumulated throughout the year. And finals, of course! But there’s always someone to remind us that something is our last this or last that. You know, just to keep things in perspective.

In three weeks I’ll be back home in Lithuania. No more biking home at night from pool parties, ice cream from Baskin Robbins, sunbathing on the Quad and studying at the Student Community Center. And just like that there will be no more California while those who made it that much more special will be scattered all over the world.

Although we always knew that this wouldn’t last forever, there are moments when we wish that it would. Yes, we’re excited about going back to our normal lives, but just like we’re still outsiders here, we will now be outsiders back home, too. At least for a while. Because we lived here for so long, we’ve grown close to California and its people and we created this close-knit international family. The transition will be painful and not only because of the jet lag.

Before coming here I wasn’t really thinking about making friends or having fun. That part simply slipped my mind. Applications, course choices, visa nightmares, booking plane tickets, accommodation searching and most of all the thought of going away for 10 months were the only things I could think of.

Then I got here and suddenly I didn’t have to worry about any of that stuff anymore.  My constant over-thinking normally would have messed it all up. But being totally unprepared, I was thrown into this whirlwind of everything new: new relationships, new activities, new environments — and only for the better. But now it’s all familiar and the sheer thought that I might never come back to Davis or see some of the people that I’ve grown so close to in these past nine months is unbearable.

But then again, there are so many people who would kill to come here and be in our place and do what we did. As my mom says, the last thing we should do is mourn having to leave. We happened to be in a right place at a right time and we made an effort to take this opportunity. We should only appreciate and celebrate that, and look forward to future adventures.

Last fall, a column about experiences of an American student on exchange in Belgium made me realize that the lives of international students in Davis are just as interesting and that I really wanted to share it with others. Since I began this spring, I have had a great time writing these columns, from the very moment I was hired on the phone while standing in some back street of University District in Seattle, WA.

I feel like writing these columns was a way for me to reflect on my year in Davis and record not only my personal experiences, but also those of the people that were closest to me throughout my stay.

There was so much of us, us foreign exchange students, in these columns. I quoted directly from our conversations, built upon the topics that we’ve talked about among ourselves, included various references that only we would get and used my friends’ experiences as examples. Without them, there would have been no column to begin with.

I want to thank them for the inspiration, but most of all for making me feel as if I were on Friends. I’m sure that in 20 years when we’ll have our reunion here in Davis that feeling will still be there.

KRISTINA SIMONAITYTE is hoping that her columns were an inspiration to another budding writer or future foreign exchange student. Also if you’re interested in a U-lock, bike helmet or large comforter you can reach her at ksimonaityte@ucdavis.edu.

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