How to say good­bye

How do you say goodbye to people you might not see again for many years? After six months in Australia, I'm on the plane back to Berlin. In this blog entry, I share the thoughts and feelings that accompany me on the 28-hour return journey.

Lisa with her friends in the desert.
On my flight back to Germany, I think about all the friends I made in Australia - and how long it might be before I see them again. Photo: private

The time in Melbourne has flown by: it feels like I've only just arrived in Australia and now I'm already on my way back to Berlin. I'm using the hours on this loooong flight to reflect on the last couple of days in Melbourne - because it was the last week that I felt went by the fastest. After travelling around Australia, I was back in Melbourne for the final week to get some stuff done. There were the things I wanted to do one last time (e.g. spend time at the beach, or visit the State Library), the things I still wanted to get (e.g. little things for friends and family) and some chores I needed to take care of. Among other things, I had to clear out and clean my flat and pack my suitcase. (Don’t get me started; that whole operation took me three days!)

However, during my return flight I keep thinking about one topic in particular: farewells. As described in my last blog post, I didn't expect this experience to be so intense before embarking on my exchange. Before I flew to Melbourne, I only thought of goodbyes in connection with my home country. Of course, I was excited and happy about the chance to study in Melbourne, but I had to say goodbye to Berlin for a while and knew I wouldn’t be able to see my friends and family for six months. Now I'm looking forward to returning - and in 26 hours the pain of leaving home will be forgotten!

Finding the right parting words

At this point, I'm thinking more about saying goodbye to the friends I made in Melbourne. During my exchange, I got to know many people from different corners of the world: Australia, Belgium, China, Denmark, India, Italy, Malaysia, Mexico, the Netherlands, Sweden, Switzerland, the USA... As I was travelling around the country, I also met many Germans whom it will be easiest to keep in touch with: they only live a short train ride away. The question of if and when I will see the others again, on the other hand, remains. It was a thought that kept coming back to me, so whenever I had to say farewell to friends during my time abroad, it was particularly difficult; even more difficult than saying goodbye to my home country. So, literally, what do you say in a situation like that?

To find the right words, I thought of the following story: During my bachelor's degree, I did a semester abroad in Amsterdam and made a good friend there, who was from Australia. When we said goodbye back then, we didn't know either if and when we would see each other next. At that time, I had no idea that I would apply for an exchange in Melbourne. But during my time "down under" we were able to see each other twice; I visited her in Brisbane and she came to see me in Melbourne. Also, during another trip, I happened to meet up with another friend from my first exchange. We saw on Instagram that we were in the same city and managed to arrange a coffee date. So, now my closing phrase is always this: "Who knows where and when we'll see each other again, but I'm already looking forward to it!"

Techno, final admin and looking ahead

I'll soon be in Berlin (well, another 19 hours) and can’t wait for some good old wholemeal bread, a kebab and good techno. I'm especially looking forward to seeing my family and friends, of course. Apart from that, the first days back home will be filled with organisational tasks that have to be taken care of in order to officially complete my semester abroad: I have to get my grades credited and write my testimonial (maybe I'll just refer to my blog entries - haha). I also hope that unpacking my suitcase won't take as long as packing it... However, I think all these jobs will be done within the first two weeks. Then, I will be fully back to Berlin life.

My time in Melbourne was a great experience that I will never forget. I already know that I will return to Australia one day, and that Melbourne will definitely be a stop on that journey. Walking around the University of Melbourne campus and the streets of the Central Business District will bring back many memories. I am already looking forward to that as well. I won't have met all my friends again in person by then, but I will send a message to all of them. (What on earth would we do without social media?) Although our time there is over, we all had a unique experience together and our memories are one thing we don’t have to say goodbye to. It's just a shame that Australia is so far away!

(Published 6 February 2023)