It's true when they say that you will barely realize that the end is coming. It was certainly hard for me too. Thinking back, I can hardly believe that tomorrow morning I'm going to Delhi, leaving everything here behind. And there's nothing I can do. I believe that leaving home is the easy part of an exchange. I mean, it's only 10 months and you can always return early if that's needed. But leaving your host country is a bit difficult. For me, it's scary to think how I'll never have this again. Well, I could live in a different country but I won't have my host family and my friends won't be able to hang out with me in the same way. I feel like I'll become an outsider again. And... I don't want that. I am so connected to Mumbai and I want to take in every part of it. I don't think my exchange was like most peoples (although that is a debate in itself since not everyone has the same experience). But I still have lived in Mumbai and I still love Mumbai and the people I have met (I cannot claim to love all Indian people because that would make everything so generalized and I don't want to lie and said I had access to every level of society).
It's also scary to leave these wonderful people. They have become your advisers and loved ones during the entire year and then suddenly, you can grab a taxi to see them and get coffee. I pray I will see them again, attend maybe one or more of their weddings, maybe run into them in the U.S. But there is always an option of that not happening.
In the end, I would like to say that despite whatever you have read on my blog or anyone elses, it is good to know that your own exchange will not be the same. I made this mistake during mine and became disappointed before I learned how blessed I was with the people around me. But that revelation took a while and valuable time was wasted on not keeping my eyes open to everything. I'm happy with my exchange now but if you are one of the lucky people going on an exchange my advice is: Prepare to be surprised. There's nothing you can do besides this. Maybe you'll be placed in a totally different strata of society or your family has different religious views than your own. You can't control it. When I first got accepted into AFS, I was supposed to be going to a small city in Gujarat but after getting my scholarship, I was put in Mumbai. There is no way I can say that your exchange will be different or similar but I can say, your exchange is what you make it. AFS is right about many things but only you know yourself and you are capable of pushing yourself past that previous limit to find a whole new one and break it down as well. Life is tough and an exchange does not make that any better, but you can decide what your reaction is and, hopefully, you'll come out stronger and better than before.
The world is a big messy place, and it looks even worse when no one is really there to guide you. So it's up to you to take the broom yourself and start sweeping, and that first swish will welcome a whole lot of other sweepers to share the task.
A bad metaphor, I know, but I'm happy right now and I love the people I met this year. I want to never forget what I accomplished and how much I grew. But there's so much left to discover, I want to press fast forward. Unfortunately, I still have my 12th grade left. Oh well. I guess it's back to work.
Until then, good luck :]