“You can’t go home again.”
Ok. Thomas Wolfe may have been a bit off when he said that, at least in my case. I have been away from home quite a lot in the past few years, and I always find myself nestled cozily back in the Applachias. What I will say is that ever since my study abroad trip to Spain in 2013, my world view has been turned completely upside down in the best way. I have become restless, unable to stay home for more than a few months at a time. I am actually wiring this blog on my iPhone in the middle of South Dakota. I’m on an 18-day cross-country road trip, and I’m loving every minute.
Travel has become a monumental part of my life since 2013. For that reason, I believe all college students should take advantage of the life-changing opportunity of study abroad, because it changes one’s life indefinitely.
It’s a huge commitment that may be difficult for most people to make.
Coming home is infinitely more difficult than leaving home in the first place.
I remember sitting in orientation for my program. The whole time the presenter spoke about what to expect after our programs, I sat thinking, “this is so overboard and dramatic.” I was inexplicably wrong because every single thing I was told about coming home was and remains true.
After just shy of month, I was not ready to leave Valencia. While pre-program Jill thought she would be ecstatic to return home after her program. Part of me was. I missed my family and sweet fiancé. But, I cried during our goodbye dinner and on the way to the airport. A big part of me was devastated to leave the Spanish culture to which I had become accustomed (if you read my last blog, you know just how incredible and passionate the culture is). Which brings me to my next point…
Reverse culture shock is real. Upon returning home, I could not handle some elements of American culture.
What do you mean we don’t get 2 hours for lunch and siesta?!
No one really goes out dancing on Tuesday nights? Since when?!
J-Walking is a thing? My friend actually got a $270 ticket for it?!
How can alcohol be such a prominent part of the Spanish culture, yet alcoholism is much more prevalent in the U.S.?
I would have never asked these questions before, because I would not have known to question the American way of life.
Before Valencia, I questioned a lot. Now, I question everything.
Before study abroad, I valued diversity. Now, I find it absolutely essential to life. I have become more intentional about seeking out new people and learning about their life experiences. I try to live as a summation of the positive elements in all the people I meet.
Since 2013, I have also become more intentional about looking for beauty in the world. Sometimes it takes throwing yourself into a completely new environment to notice how awe-inspiring the world really is. Traveling has taught me to seek out all that is beautiful in the world. I continually add more places to my “bucket list,” but I am learning to settle my continual case on Wanderlust in my own hometown.
Study abroad is a Catch-22, really. You have the best experiences ever, because you interact with places like a local.
You are also forced to examine all of your perceptions on the world. Most of them change… mostly for the better.
A whole world is opened up for you. But, you pine for adventure, and leaving new, beautiful places is tangibly painful.
You will be forever reminiscent, fulfilled by the memories you have. You will also have the biggest case of nostalgia imaginable, and you can’t shake it; it never goes away.
For many, home means contentment and comfort. After study abroad, those two things feel like complacency.
In that way, I suppose Thomas Wolfe was rightful in saying, “You can’t go home again.”