Going for an international exchange is probably the highlight in my 4 years of studying at SMU. Time has shown that this 6 months can make or break a couple. Stories of couples breaking up during exchange was not uncommon at all. We took that leap of faith, and this is our story :)
Approximately one year ago, we made a decision to apply for our international exchange together. Fresh into a relationship, taking such a long break was a big risk we were not willing to take. 12 months later, we are stronger as a couple with lasting memories of a dream we shared in a foreign land. Before you decide if you want to take a trip with that special someone, know that this is what might be in store for you :)
#1 You fight.
You’re happily in love and it seems like nothing can even create a scratch on this wonderful love you share. WRONG. Traveling together means that you have to face each other 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Discounting half the time is spent on sleeping and assuming that you and your partner usually spend about 8 hours a week on dates in singapore, you would have gone through 10.5 dates in a single week. I’d estimate that leo and I find something to argue about once every 5 dates or so, hence that would be 2 arguments in a single week. PLUS! Living together during this period of time widens your eyes to all the little habits that you may not have noticed before! Hygiene, cleanliness and sleeping habits suddenly become an issue to you. Quarreling is a definite. Everything about your other half will seem to annoy you as though he is out to play you. (i look too happy in this photo for someone who is being played around like a puppet with our constant quarrels lol) So yes, you should expect to quarrel. The good thing is, quarreling may not be a bad thing!
#2 You normalize
Leadership and team building classes have taught us that groups will always go through this process of forming, storming, norming and performing. Being in a relationship is exactly the same! You formed a union with your partner and you’ve been faring seemingly well. Planning and doing things together seems to be a norm nowadays. What exchange does is to accelerate the process of norming. They say you do not really know how it is to be with a person until you have lived with him. Taking trips together will bring his habits to your attention and any other attributes that you may hopefully come to love. During our first week in Laval, it seemed like we argued about every little thing. We argued about how messy the room was, who should go grocery shopping, what we should buy, how we should spend, etc… You get the idea, the list goes on. Eventually you will reach a point whereby you know you have to talk about agreeing on certain things such as how much you spend. You will also start to be more accepting, as he will be to you. Eventually, it seems like everything will flow. You win some, you lose some. The key thing to note in this stage is that you should spend time together to talk about the issues that matter to you. Minor issues can be changed, we merely need to make an effort to break out of our habits. And then, viola! Suddenly you’re aligned and happier than before :)
#3 You bare all.
There are no secrets, even your natural look. Physical appearances might seem like a very superficial thing but it is something that you should like. The Internet has all sort of tips and tricks for women like myself to learn to put on makeup and accentuate our better features. Countless of videos have also shown how different people can look with and without makeup. Spending prolonged periods of time together will force you to view them in their natural state (if you have yet to do so previously). Beyond physical characteristics, you also see all the unglamorous things no one has ever seen before. If you are going to spend a lifetime together, you had better get used to how your other half is like.
Mine has a happy ending of course (hehe). Leo has seen me in the most unglamorous situations and he is still here! I usually wear contact lens when I am out but when I am home, I prefer to wear my glasses. Leo has seen how horrendous I look in them but instead he liked them more than my lens hahah! There also were moments when I’d fall dead asleep with my the weirdest sleeping positions but he never minded. Seems like I am a very lucky girl! :) But of course, he has his own weird antics haha. Here’s a secret, some times he would sleep talk! :P Recently he mumbled he was worried about sizes. He recently set up his own athletics company called Deimos to sell performance athletics wear and some training goods. I guess it is understandable. It does not really bug me at all. In fact, I find it really cute! Seems like he will never be able to keep a secret from me since I can extort it from him when he is sleeping haha :P
#4 You trust.
The road ahead may seem bumpy and unclear, but having that special someone makes this road less risky and much more pleasant. I am a scady cat, i admit it. I hate the feeling of falling and hence, taking roller coasters is a definite no no. Having Leo with me gave me the courage to do things that I would not have thought I could. The photo above depicts the outlook we had when we took the open air cable car from the peak of Whistler mountain to the base. It was a very scary feeling as we had to hop on the seat while it was moving, go through extreme cold and fog, and finally hop off before it hits us. I DID IT! :) It was such an exhilarating feeling and I am so glad I did it. Thank you Leo! :) :) :)
Another thing I would never have done is to go white water rafting. I am an indoor person. Throughout my life, I like to hide indoors to read and sleep. Even when it comes to sports, I liked to play badminton which is an indoor sport! Furthermore, I cannot swim. So when you think of white water rafting, you will not think of Eugenia haha. But… I DID IT!!! :) It was a really crazy adventure. Going through the rapids in Canada in the wild wild west is really a once in a lifetime experience. We tried to spot moose during our ride down but nothing came to greet us. The craziest thing I did was to climb a cliff of about 3-storey high and jumped into the cold dark water. You know how you are supposed to maintain a small surface area when you land? I freaked out and I opened my hands and legs to go SPLAT! into the water. My head was circling for a while before I could hear people shouting my name. #firstandlast I will never do it again, but I will never forget this crazy one hell of an adventure :)
#5 You create your own tradition.
You’ve been to so many places together and you know that you want to look back to these memories that are yours. We’ve seen MOVE in which one man shot one second in every country he visited to make a collage and it is awesome. Go check out his video and you will know what I mean. So yes, Leo and I wanted a little something we can put together in the distant future. And so we started this “boy carries girl” tradition at every major landmark we went. I don’t remember who suggested it but I guess Leo will be doing a lot of lifting even when he gets old haha. It really is a delight to look at these photos and reminisce about the memories we created. So think big and think easy. Something you can do no matter where you go.
#6 You start to be a kid again.
There is this weird feeling you get when you are in love. It seems as though this universe only has two beings — you and your partner. Your ego left for a break, your playfulness is sky high and the only thing stopping you from doing anything silly is……. perhaps how other people will judge you. But who cares? In this universe it seems to only have the two of you and as William Shakespeare said, “all the world’s a stage and all the men and women are merely players”. Your role right now is to just have fun! So off we went! Leonard and I jumped into the huge pile of snow right outside our doorstep. Making snow angels as though we were kids. (Even our Quebecois friend said that only children do these kind of stuff haha).
You start making silly faces and you actually have an album of stupid faces that you hope no one but the two of you will ever know of haha.
#7 You conduct your own photo shoot
Being on vacation means that the entire environment is foreign and there are many places for you to explore. Each location seem to have its own draw and it is probably perfect to do a little mini photo shoot for the two of you. Again, the purpose is to create memories that you want to hold dear. After all, it is these memories that build your relationship. ^^
#8 You find it impossible to plan surprises, but manage to do so anyway
#9 You love.
After going through all these fights and happy moments, you complete the norming period of the relationship. Finally, there is sight of the light at the end of the tunnel — you love. With every fight you overcome, you become a stronger a couple. You find that you give up a little more for this person you love, and at the same time you feel so loved.
By the time we were home from our 5 months of exchange, I predicted that I wouldn’t hear from him for a good week. I mean, you finally have your own personal space and you can do whatever you want, surely you’d enjoy it to the best you can.
The next day, he called. :)