I arrived at Capitol Hill on a hot and humid July evening in 2008 with crickets singing their songs on the trees of my street. Landlord Jerry was greeting me at the front door, and treated me with a huge glass of red wine before wishing me good night. My head was buzzing with the fact that I had just left home – to come home. Jerry guided me on a biking trip around our neighborhood the next day, and invited his friends over for a welcome dinner that evening. The memory of that night, how overwhelmingly exhausting, but exhilarating everything felt still makes me cry.
I have grown, become a new person, and also a far better employee for an international exchange organization. I now remember very clearly again, how incredibly sad missing your mom can make you feel. How receiving an email home will bring tears to your eyes, no matter where you are. How important it is to be able to say that “Yes, I feel bad now –thanks for asking- but I’m sure that this too will pass.” And even more: how it feels to belong somewhere, to have friends and colleagues around you, whom you can trust, you can laugh with and who don’t want you to be just okay – they want you to thrive.
Past 18 months have been the rollercoaster ride of my life. During this time I saw the great host families and area reps of our organization in USA. I met with my international colleagues, made severe progress in my understanding of the world, and was thrilled of the fact that I could just take a bus to New York City. A BUS, for crying out loud…!
I read somewhere that ‘some people come into our lives and leave handprints on our hearts - and we are never ever the same.’ I will fly to Finland on Sunday, with your handprints pressed all over my heart. Feeling grateful for having had the opportunity to meet and work with you.
I refuse to say goodbye or farewell – so I’ll just say ‘see you later’ and ‘stay well’, and let our good karma take care of the rest.
Thank you for letting me to get to know you!
Ps. Found this (an email I wrote to my colleagues in January) in my sent mail yesterday. Thought I'd post it here just that I would not forget.