Since my return from Spain, I’ve taken great care not to sound like one of those study abroad kids.
You know, the ones who have to incorporate something about their “life-changing experience” into literally every sentence that comes out of their mouths? Well, at the risk of sounding like one of those people, I pose a very serious question: what the hell am I supposed to do now?
This summer I spent almost two months in Spain taking classes, improving my second-language skills and, let’s be completely honest, having a good time.
Emphasis on that last one.
Before studying abroad, Miami makes you complete one of those orientation module things where they tell you all about the amazing time you’re going to have, how to call your parents when you get homesick and what to do if you get offered hard drugs on the streets of Amsterdam.
But there's also a not-so-little section that talks about culture shock which, in all honesty, I promptly skipped through and did not read any of.
I’ve been privileged enough to travel out of the country several times. That culture shock stuff would never apply to me, right?
Sure, adjusting to a new country was difficult at first, but that was something I expected. I had my ups and downs in the first few weeks and even later in the trip as well. But what I did not expect was to have to readjust so much once I got back to the place I call home.
As absolutely cliche as it sounds, I don’t think I came back from Europe as the same version of myself.
I mean, I’m still me. Just with a noticeably whimsical new aura of world traveller.
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I don’t even think any of the changes are outwardly visible to the people around me, aside from my family and friends watching me adjust from the time change and ravenously eat Chipotle because I missed it so much.
The truth is that studying abroad really did change my outlook on the world and my own future. It made me think a lot harder about everything I want to get out of life and what my goals actually are.
It made me feel small in the best way possible.
I don't know about your parents, but mine are always telling me there's more to life than what's right in front of me. And I've always known that. I mean, I've grown 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 that gives me the most intense anxiety and tremendous excitement at the same time.
There’s a necessary balance between those two emotions, and that’s what I have yet to master since getting back to the U.S. and probably why I’m feeling so unsettled lately.
I'm still the same person: introverted until comfortable, adventurous and loyal to the people I love. The key components of myself haven’t changed –– It’s the way that I go about handling the world around me that has.
To push through the process of reversing my reverse culture shock, I try to soak up all of the things that I can still love about home.
And let me say, starting with Chipotle, it’s going pretty well so far.