Times up! Time to go back home


These slippers featuring anatomy are an item that I passed every day on my walk home from school. Something I know that would not be part of my world in Toronto.

Goodbye salacious slippers. Goodbye canals and cookies with coffee. Goodbye Amsterdam and Utrecht. 

The last day I spent in Holland it snowed and the place I have grown to love became even more beautiful. A swan’s song to end my exchange. It was pathetic fallacy to the max, an internal and external changing of the seasons. Rather than go into details of goodbyes, I think a valuable and understated part of exchange are the realizations one receives upon the completion of an exchange. Re-adjustment or re-entry as some would call it.

Re-adjusting to life back home is like stepping into the ocean. You can feel the tension between where you want to step and where the movement of the water forces you to step. But, this tension only exists because your body isn’t immersed yet. Yet, soon enough, it will be.

Words can’t always capture this feeling of changing waters, so I made a small painting that might!

One of the difficulties of coming home is that you look exactly the same, even though you don’t always feel the same. I wish there was a way of taking a before and after picture of one’s emotional state. Would my exercised of social adaptability have whipped my emotions into shape? Have I lost pounds of routine and flattened my belly with cultural acuity?

Unfortunately, there is no magic camera that will help illustrate the difference between pre-exchange Julienne and post-exchange Julienne—- there are only words. Words, I might add, that have some very heavy lifting to do! Post-exchange involves taking trying to stuff the content of four months, a multitude of experiences and the magnification of self into words that feel like pocket sized suitcases.

So if I were to sum up my exchange like a movie trailer this would be it:

A graduate student moves in with a sailor, spark detective and ornithologist only to find that the she is allergic to the room she lives in. After struggles to understand the philosophy homework assigned to her she has a breakthrough. Her academic epiphanies are portrayed by a long montage of an air balloon adventure in Turkey and a night spent in the desert with a nomad in Morocco. She comes home  to realize the importance of sharing whimsy, joy and time with the people in her life.

Maybe she comes home and that is not all she realizes. Every day realizations are popping up. My head feels like Mary Poppins, continually pulling more emotions and thoughts out from what seems like a bottomless purse.

Love how political Toronto is! In Holland, even with the national elections, there were no signs of an election taking place. Amsterdam may be political, but it wasn’t out into the open like it is in Toronto. Just an interesting difference.

Sensory Experience back in Toronto:  I totally feel like I became a country mouse in Utrecht. I’ve never really lived in a small town and after getting used to it my sensory experience in Toronto was altered. First, I couldn’t believe how LOUD the city was! Second, how many strangers faces I was exposed to— that’s a weird way of saying it. I mean, how many people you can visible see in a day and how many different demographics there are here. Also, it stunned me that even in cold weather you could see people wearing shorts, t-shirts or sandals.

Other things I learned on my exchange?

  • My favourite  Dutch word is the word for a dustpan is  “kruimeltjes dief”, which literally translates to crumb thief. Amazing!
  • For many years I have been plagued by the crisis of art that was identified by Danto (my academic hero). I admired him so much that I did not question his writing and developed a lot of disciplinary baggage by his ‘end of art.’ The philosophers introduced to me by the course I took in Amsterdam, Jacques Ranciere and Jean-Luc Nancy have renewed my sense for the future of art, pertinent to me as an artist and art historian.
  • Although I had an amazing adventure in the Netherlands I am also amazed by the life I have in Toronto. First the first time I feel like I can live in Toronto with conviction. I’ve lived abroad in Italy and France and I always thought the best version of myself was there. Now for the first time, I realize that my best-self is also in Toronto.
This time abroad has been outstanding and challenging. Exchange holds a magnifying glass to life and exposes details that would otherwise unnoticed.



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About julienne.lottering@utoronto.ca

When my family emigrated from South Africa to Canada it was 1991 and I was eight years old. From an early age it was clear to me that my roots had a contentious history. Immigration shaped me by making me more skeptical of my roots and a more trusting of my wings. Travel has never just been travel for me; it has been a way to make order out of the world. In the context of my life, travel is a stratosphere of transformative experiences. For that reason I am now living in the Netherlands with the mission to find cultural subtleties, unexpected beauty and what wild diverse experiences this exchange has to offer!

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