Since my return from Spain, I have taken great care not to look like one of those children who study abroad.
You know, the ones who have to incorporate something about their “life changing experience” into literally every sentence that comes out of their mouth? Well, at the risk of sounding like one of those people, I ask a very serious question: what am I supposed to do now?
This summer, I spent almost two months in Spain taking lessons, improving my second language skills and, let’s be completely honest, having fun.
Emphasize the latter.
Before you study abroad, Miami puts you through one of these orientation modules where they tell you all about the amazing time you’re going to have, how to call your parents when you’re homesick, and what to do if you are offered hard drugs on the streets of Amsterdam.
But there’s also a not-so-small section that talks about culture shock that, in all honesty, I quickly skipped and didn’t read.
I had the privilege of traveling several times outside the country. That culture shock thing would never apply to me, would it?
Of course, adapting to a new country was difficult at first, but it was something I expected. I had some ups and downs for the first few weeks and even later in the trip. But what I didn’t expect was to have to readjust so much once I got back to the place I call home.
As cliché as it sounds, I don’t think I came back from Europe with the same version of myself.
I mean, I’m still me. Just with a remarkably whimsical new world traveler aura.
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I don’t even think any of the changes are outwardly visible to people around me other than my family and friends watching me adjust to the time change and voraciously eat Chipotle because it i miss you so much.
The truth is that studying abroad has really changed my view of the world and my own future. It made me think a lot more about everything I want out of life and what my real goals are.
It made me feel small in the best possible way.
I don’t know about your parents, but mine always tell me there’s more to life than what’s right in front of me. And I’ve always known that. I mean, I grew up in Ohio for god’s sake.
But it’s true: you really don’t know what’s out there until you see it for yourself.
There are countless places I’ve never been, things I haven’t seen, and people I haven’t met, and it gives me both the most intense anxiety and enormous excitement. .
There’s a necessary balance between those two emotions, and that’s what I haven’t mastered since returning to the States and probably why I’ve been feeling so unsettled lately.
I’m still the same person: introverted until comfortable, adventurous, and loyal to the people I love. The key parts of me haven’t changed –– it’s the way I deal with the world around me that has changed.
To get through the process of reversing my reverse culture shock, I try to soak up all the things I can still love about myself.
And let me say, starting with Chipotle, it’s been going pretty well so far.