Coming back to America after being away for 4 months has been the strangest experience. Although I was warned that coming back is overwhelming and different than you expect, I was not prepared for the rush of emotions I felt. I expected to jump right back into my old life with my family, friends, and boyfriend, but that was not the case. Even though they asked the usual, “How was your trip?” and “What was your coolest experience?” questions, I felt like I could not properly explain everything I was thinking and feeling. While I excitedly anticipated seeing them during the last few days in Spain, I didn’t feel myself. As soon as they asked the few normal questions, it was like as if everything was the same again. That’s what I wanted, for everything to be the same right? I wanted for everything to be just how I left it when I returned, but now I felt differently. I felt as if I was having an outer-body experience where everything around me had stayed the same, but I had changed. I feel oversensitive to everything and overthink a lot about what people do and say around me. I can’t understand why I feel this way.
I constantly keep thinking to myself, “This is not what I expected.” After some thought, I realize that it is just going to take me time. Slimbach discusses in his closing chapter, “I Didn’t Expect That,” all of the feelings and emotions that come along with reincorporation. After reading this chapter I realized that I had done the opposite of everything that Slimbach advises in this final chapter. Rather than giving myself alone time to unpack, reflect, and relax, I filled my time by going to Quinnipiac to see my friends, spending time with family, and jumping right back into my job as a waitress. I didn’t realize how sad and exhausted I was. I completely ditched the idea of personal reflection because I didn’t process that my journey wasn’t quite over. Solely because I am back in America, does not mean that my experience has ended. I still need time to reflect on the past 4 months and absorb all that I have done. I still need time to access my own thoughts and feelings before I jump back into my normal, hectic routine. Slimbach encourages us to “think and act in ways that enrich and enlighten both others and ourselves” (220). In order to do this, I need time to look back on my blog posts and personal journal and remember all that I have learned and how I have grown. By doing this, I will be able to effectively share my new discoveries with those around me and I integrate myself back into the community.
I decided to share my reincorporation letter with both my family and my boyfriend. The quote I shared with them was, “The use of traveling is to regulate imagination by reality, and instead of thinking how things may be, to see them as they are” (Samuel Johnson). I used this to explain to them that I have a new way of seeing things and my perceptions have changed after experiencing new cultures and reality. This quote exemplified how I am different then when I left 4 months ago. I am extremely lucky that my family and friends have been nothing but sensitive and understanding both while I was away and now that I am back. After being around me since I have been home, I think they realize that I have grown and they are happy and proud of me. One thing that has affirmed my growth has been my independence. For example, when we went into New York City, I was comfortable navigating and following directions. My parents instantly noticed this because they used to make fun of my lack of directional skills. This is just a small instance that makes me feel like I have grown and have become more comfortable in unfamiliar situations. I am blessed to have such a strong and solid support system and it has allowed me to feel more comfortable adjusting to being back.
In the final paragraph “The Journey Home”, Slimbach urges us to integrate the gems we discovered while travelling. One way I am going to do this is by getting rid of all the “stuff” I have. After living the happiest 4 months of my life out of a 50 pound suitcase, I realize that I don’t need a lot to make me happy. I have excess clothes, shoes, books, bags, and stuff that I don’t wear or use. During this break, I want to donate a lot of it. Next semester, I am taking on the role of Chief Education Officer for my sorority at Quinnipiac. As part of my role, I would like to great a mentorship program for girls that are going abroad in our sorority. I would like to pair them up with a girl that has already been abroad so they can assist them with the transition and answer any questions they may have. This would be away to encourage more girls to study abroad and make them feel more comfortable.
A habit that I need to get rid of is settling. I always strive for harmony and often let people push their perspectives and opinions on me just to reach harmony or consensus. I want to be more assertive and share my thoughts without worrying about stirring the pot. I now have more confidence to do that.
As I continue to get reincorporated, my feelings are all over place. One quote that represents my feelings is, “Once the travel bug bites there is no antidote, and I know that I shall be happily infected until the end of my life” (Michael Palin). I realize that there is so many more cultures I want to see and experience and, just because my study abroad experience is over, it doesn’t mean my desire for discovery and travel is gone. It is something that will stay with me for the rest of my life.