I never thought that coming on an exchange program would change me so much as a person. I think none of the exchange students ever expected it. We knew we were going to be more independent, but did not know how exactly. We knew we were going to make friends, but did not know it would make leaving so hard again. Every part of this exchange program feels so overwhelming, so surreal, it almost feels like a dream, and to be honest, it is a dream for many of us, a dream that lasts a year.
I came on this exchange program without expectations, simple because I did not know what to expect. I was going to a new country with a new culture. Before I came to Berlin, I thought it would be filled with skyscrapers but apparently not. I still remember the excitement I had when I was on the way home from the airport for the first time. It feels like it was just yesterday when I first arrived, and now it has already more than two months.
Two months here, a lot of people have been telling me I have changed and I do not deny it. Becoming less talkative and probably more mature. If you ask me why and how, I will not be able to answer because I too have no idea how it came about.
Since coming on this exchange program, I tend to listen more and to talk less. It’s obvious that I could not talk a lot at the beginning because I did not understand the language but now, after understanding more, I still choose to remain silent and listen. People often say ‘God gave us two ears and one mouth for a reason’ but I did not really pay much attention to this quote until now.
One thing I do not really like about Malaysia and probably some other Asian countries is the fact that people judge one another way too often. I am not saying it doesn’t happen here in Berlin but it is less compared to in Malaysia. In Malaysia, people are often judged by their appearance, their status, their income, their sexual orientation, their marriage life. However, what does that have to matter?
Everybody has their stories, their purpose. I admit that I used to judge people a lot in Malaysia as well, but now after coming here, after listening to people’s stories, I realize that I am in no position to judge another person, and vice versa because what you see is never the whole story. There goes the saying ‘Don’t judge a book by it’s cover’ but how many people really live up to this obviously overused idiom.
I have met a lot of people over the course of two months here in Germany, and there are a lot whom I have ‘judged’ when I first came into contact with them, but after getting to know them better, they turn out to be some of the nicest people I have ever met. I guess this is a reason why I like Berlin so much, everybody can act an be who they want without being criticized. Life would be really nice if one could act and do whatever he wants without having the fear of people judging you.
I understand that it takes time for a country to develop to such maturity, but I think that that too is a reason why a lot of people choose to pursue their dreams in a foreign land.