Saying our final departure good-byes to our host-supervisor, Mary, was probably the hardest part about leaving, but boarding the bus that took us to the airport was an extremely bittersweet feeling. I was sad to be leaving an amazing place that had once been so unknown and foreign but now could not feel more like home. It felt like we all had just became familiar with our daily routines, tasks and surroundings (reincorporation phase) and now we are being taken back to the liminal phase.
When the plane departed from Shannon Airport and I saw my last glimpses of the green, rock-wall lined fields, I felt excited and anxious instead of emotional and upset. Reminiscing, I was proud of myself for everything that I had accomplished in the four months I had spent in Ireland and was overwhelmed with new ideas and everything that I learned about myself and those around me. We all grew and changed in our own ways. We have grown to become better people and integrated ourselves in the global community as responsible citizens.
Arriving in America was just as bittersweet as leaving our apartment complex. On one hand, I was excited to see my family, friends, and dog but, on the other hand, I was nervous as to how I was going to interact and react to a place that I have not been in four months. America and the people around me felt foreign to me even though I had lived there for my entire life. I was scared, disoriented and immediately taken back to the liminal phase. As Slimbach states on page 205, nothing will be familiar for awhile. “…you’re probably a different person than when you left. Having struggled to overcome so many ‘dragons,’ both within and without, you now look at yourself and your natal culture differently. Your hometown hasn’t moved, and your network of family and friends is still intact-but both feel different, almost like a foreign land” (205).
It will take some getting used to the faster-paced lifestyle, which is completely the opposite of what Ireland was like. The lack of patience in those around me is frustrating and it seems like everyone is in a rush to get nowhere. Paying for items at stores has proven to be a challenge in itself, also. I had become so used to the Euro currency and having no sales tax that it took me a little longer than usual to buy something as simple as a coffee.
Sharing my letter with my closest friend was actually a fun experience. She was excited for me to be home but was also excited at how much I had learned and overcome throughout my study abroad experience. She was also excited to be considered a part of my overall experience and wanted to facilitate my reincorporation to make it as easy and simple as possible. Slimbach states on page 209 that some relationships that may have been strong before I left are now weak and non-existent. He also states home as a place that does not exist because it is wherever we, individually, create it. Fortunately, a few close relationships from my natal culture in America have strengthened but some have vanished. The quote I relate to is “Just as we had to construct a home in our host culture, we must now learn to reconstruct a new home in our home culture” (208).
I have gained a better understanding for the world and the cultures that inhabit it; I am more open-minded and open to try new things. Instead of completely shutting down an opportunity in a future job or in my community because it’s not something I would normally do, I will take more time to consider it, because why not? I have learned that change is a good thing. A habit I will change is being more open and accepting of people and things before coming to quick conclusions.