Few things give me the same rush as hitting a party full of exchangers. In the beginning, since I’ve been a foreign student for years myself, I thought it was because of being able to relate to them, sharing the comfort of knowing they were as far away from home as myself. But then I stopped considering myself a foreign student; I felt more like I’d managed to settle in even though I didn’t speak the local language. But I still loved exchangers.
So I started thinking it might have something to do with simply meeting new people, opening to new possibilities. That was another dead end: mixing with the locals, while interesting and sometimes illuminating, didn’t stimulate me in the same way.
Some people, as well as a lot of facebook groups, suggested me that exchange students and alcohol generally walk the same path. I played with the idea that I liked to surround myself with exchangers because they get constantly plastered; but living between Ireland and the Netherlands, I had heaps of local people who enjoyed the sauce even more than those foreign amateurs. So alcohol got ruled out.
And then it hit me: I remembered about Pirandello’s view of society. He believed that everyone carries a mask, which is defined by what people think of us, what we think people think of us, what we think about people, and what we think about ourselves – a bit confusing, but undeniably true for most of us. What does this have to do with exchangers? Simple: the vast majority of exchangers drop their mask entirely due the combination of alcohol (yes, he’s back) and the fact that no-one knows who they are when they reach Maastricht or whatever city they’re going to; in other words, they just drop the act and be themselves – with the help of a beer or twelve.
I would just hope that exchangers are able to bring some of that social honesty back home, although I know most of them quickly go back to their usual selves. Next week about 500 new ones will arrive in Maastricht, so I will feel home again. I can just let go and be myself again… about time.
Hello folks, my name's Suppo. I've been pretending to be an exchange student for five years, because I think there's no social group with less self-consciousness, or more freedom of spirit. I enjoy challenging social conventions for the sake of it, love to observe people when they feel awkward and I think I lost the capacity to feel embarrassed at some party a while ago. When I'm not being an ass, I drink, read, cook and do sports.