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Sorry, I’m a nomad

Madina Balgabek. (Photo: Aliya Balgabekova)

Blog |   01. Apr 2019

Madina Balgabek


Have you been on exchange? Have you moved around a lot? Or are you from a nomadic culture?

Anyways, you know what it feels like to move from one place to another, from one city to another, from one country to the next and next and next…

When you’re 18, it all seems like an adventure when you’re asked if you’d like to move to New York or Bali, Copenhagen or Almaty for a while. In fact, you’re surprised people even have to ask that question. Of course! It’ll be fun! But how long will that desire for something fresh chase you? How many times will you have to have a new start, a new life, a new everything? Want to develop adaptability and good communication skills? Go on exchange!

My family moved and changed houses eight times from the time I was born. Every time, in the same city with the same routine, until I turned 17 and then I moved to another city for studies. The circle of friends changed. People who I was used to seeing six days a week were no longer there. I moved to a place where I didn’t know anybody and nobody knew me.

I remember that first day at university and the excitement of being in a full bus with 35-degree heat. I was on my way to a place where I could be whoever I wanted to be. It was a great year with lots happening. The first year alone with no parents or any adults being around. I believe that’s when I really started to appreciate the word ‘home’. It was never a question of where it was or who it was. It’s always been the parental home in the smallest city in Kazakhstan.

My family moved and changed houses eight times from the time I was born

That definition changed once I started my own little family without even really thinking much about living in a new city, country, or continent every summer. I remember my first exchange program, which was the best thing I could have done at 18. There were a lot of firsts: first time abroad, first time on a plane, first time in Japan, first time finding myself, first time being so in love with life, first time meeting my life partner.

Years later, now that I’m an exchange expert, I know there are a lot of things that will never stay. When you’re on exchange, you meet people, hang out with all sorts of cultures, bond and tell your deepest secrets, get drunk and try new unexpected things. You live life to the fullest because exchange has a tendency to end before you know it, so you need to make THE MOST OF IT. Once it’s over, you promise to keep in touch. To Skype. To visit and invite them to visit you. To travel somewhere together with them.

Well, sorry, it won’t happen with everybody.

There were a lot of firsts: first time abroad, first time on a plane, first time in Japan, first time finding myself, first time being so in love with life, first time meeting my life partner

I caught myself thinking about how I find it hard to bond with people on a deep level. I’m not afraid to make the first step towards people I like. But if I don’t get a step towards me in return, then I let them go. If I don’t have topics to discuss with someone I used to call ‘best friend’, so be it. I wish you all the best, my dear friend. You’re free to go. You’ll always be in my heart. I think it’s okay to let people go when it’s time for both of us to move on.


You just step out from that bubble, each with your own paths. Yes, the first year you’ll write to people and tell them how you miss them and that you should meet sooner. But people get involved with other people, physically present ones, and you become a memory. And you know what? It’s okay. You’re fine and they’re fine. That headlong dive into a new relationship with the absolute knowledge that it’ll end is something worth having. Living a life being afraid of getting hurt is no life at all. Why play safe when you can play like a winner?

I wish you all the best, my dear friend. You’re free to go. You’ll always be in my heart

I’ve been on exchange four times and each time I met wonderful people and completely fell in love. I love meeting people with stories, special ones, broken ones, crazy and weird ones. Each of them plants something in my memory – a funny moment or knowledge, an experience or THE experience.

Before my last exchange to Japan, I had a serious conversation with myself and said, “Girl, this time try not to bond with people too much. You’ll have a hard time letting them go once you get home”. Guess what? They brought me so much joy and I thank them for being in that period of my life. It might have been short.

But guys, it was amazing. Thank you. I will always remember you – each and every one of you.


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