It is hard to imagine even one soul in our generation who would turn down an opportunity to study abroad! That’s the opportunity I had; it was the one that I had always wished for. I wasn’t just going to a different country, but a different continent altogether. I was going into a different world, where people spoke a different language, ate different food and lived a different life. This was something I had always wanted to do; travel to my heart’s content and not stay in the same place. After all, God gave us legs and man-made aeroplanes for a reason!
So here I was, in Grenoble, France, a small city in the Rhone Alpes region. Grenoble Ecole de Management (GEM) had opened its doors for me as an exchange student for one trimester. An extremely international institute, GEM took in a huge number of exchange students every trimester, allowing its students to experience the world while they learn. I, on my first day of class, was no less than overflowing with excitement to meet students from all over the world. Now, after almost 3 months of sharing a classroom with them, I understand a lot of things that I earlier did not. Everything began to have numerous perspectives; I began to look at things differently. With the trimester coming to a close, I kept wishing in my head for it to never end.
Alongside class hours, I also travelled a lot. Spontaneous trips, meeting new people every place I went, and exploiting the benefits of the Schengen region to its full potential had a thrill to it that was worth every bit. The feeling when one is literally living out of a bag, spending every weekend in a new city, even a new country, is priceless. Even before I got back from travelling one weekend, I was on my toes to plan my next. Always having something to look forward to felt like the best kind of life.
It is said, that the path one takes is as important as the destination. Keeping that in mind, trains were my go-to for transfers. Every train journey was special. The scenic beauty of every route was different from the other in mesmerizing ways; sometimes so grasping, that all one would wish to do is soak it all in and never let the image fade away. The sky so blue, with clouds like cotton candy, the grass so green, the trees so lush and the fields so vast made up for every tired muscle in my body. Every frame clicked in ‘brain-camera’ was like a postcard picture; simply perfect.
A new country with a heritage of its own meant a new language. At first it was difficult to understand or communicate on so many levels. However, it got better with time. One tends to develop sensitivity listening to people talk in their native language. It helped me create a sense of understanding that I did not have earlier. The realisation struck, that humans all over the world are unique with emotions and expressions. On the other hand, however different they may be, they were all the same.
Like everything, this experience has its downsides too. It is only normal for a person, who has stayed at home all their life, to be away from home for so long and so far, to feel homesick. The times of anniversary and birthday celebrations, that one has not only never missed, but also arranged, happening back at home are being missed for the first time ever because one made a choice. Those times of festivities, that one has celebrated every year with full vigour and enthusiasm, are not recognised, let alone being celebrated in the place they are. Those are the times that one misses their roots, their home. All one wants to do at these times is leave everything and go back home, to their parents, grandparents and siblings, and be pampered, meet friends; not on a screen, but in reality.
Solo travelling gives one a lot of time to think, and I surely did my mine. The one thing I learnt from this whole experience was no matter where one is in the world, there’s always something they’ll miss. But, instead of cribbing about what they’re missing, one should make the most of what they actually have.
Subhi Poddar | PGDM 2016-18