After being home one week, I must be honest, I thought I would have a slightly difficult time reincorporating myself into my native-culture due to people telling me to expect to feel culture-shock coming back. I knew due to the fact that I truly was ready to get back to my native-culture as I missed my friends and family tremendously that I likely wouldn’t experience as much culture shock as others possibly would. However I am surprised that I haven’t had any sense of difficulty doing so. My initial night/day back home, I only spent 12 hours in my house before driving off to school to see my friends the weekend before finals week. I do believe that incorporating myself back into my friends’ and roommates’ lives so quickly after being home and not giving myself time to overthink the unlikely possibilities that they may not care as much as they have made better friendships while I was gone, or that I will have changed too much to identify with my friends the same way prior to traveling abroad. I do believe that I have matured and grown on so many levels however not to the point that I am having difficulty connecting with my friends and family like I was able to before my trip. I think that some people may have difficulty because they want to tell everyone about the life that they have been living for the past four months; a life that people can only remotely imagine thanks to the countless pictures that they have been scrolling through on Facebook for the past few months. On account of this, people don’t have the same enthusiasm and have a narrowed interest towards the subject as you do. I have noticed with friends that I receive the same questions: What is(are) your favorite place(s), what was your favorite experience, do you miss it, etc. Yes, I could go on with those questions and tell them every detail about my trip, but I would lose interest very quickly because naturally people don’t have the interest in learning or listening to a subject that they can’t connect with. Not taking offense to that and knowing that Florence and traveling abroad will always have a special place in my heart, that I can and already have connected with new people on and can help educate people who are interested and one day, help make someone else’s experience great with my thoughts and recommendations towards Europe. What I can say that I do miss immensely about Florence is the ability to walk everywhere I go. That was my favorite aspect of the city as it gave me the opportunity to grow as that is when I explored, learned, and wandered. Unfortunately, the weather has not been optimal my first week home, however I will push myself to get out and take walks while I am home during the months of good weather that are approaching. I of course also miss the wonderful and enormous panini’s that Florence has to offer however I know I can make sandwiches here, maybe not with foccacia bread or fantastic panini makers like that of Florence, however I made sure I bought back some great olives oils and truffle. Travel. Gosh I will miss traveling each weekend and growing from each experience as it provided to learn more about myself in a small period of time than I have ever been able to before. However, I now feel that I have disregarded my own marvelous country and want to take time to appreciate and explore my home-culture as that too, will allow me to grow, learn, and become more independent. As one can see, yes there are many aspects that I will miss, but there were also so many aspects that I missed about home and that I know I can make possible at home as well as incorporating my new interests and knowledge into my home-culture which also makes me proud as I know that means I am successfully permitting the global community to grow.
Although I have not faced many issues a this point reintegrating myself back into my host culture, I also have to acknowledge that based on my trip to Europe, I learned that it may take longer for things to hit me and for me to feel the challenges of integrating myself into a community that I have not lived among for some time. It is possible that evolving into the liminal stage of rites of passage took me longer while abroad due to circumstances and difficulties that I experienced and arose about 3-4 weeks into my travels. However, I am keeping that possibility that I may experience the liminal phase a few weeks from now. Thanks to my difficulties abroad however I have learned to deal with my obstacles in a light that is healthy for myself thus I know that I can successfully do that again.
Coming home, I have experienced a slight feeling of being lost in regard to my future and my goals towards my career. I am not sure that those feelings are solely due to studying abroad as it was due to me feeling pressured to choose my path as I was planning to study for the MCAT this summer and had a lot on my plate after an academically much simpler semester. However I can say that I think my experience abroad pushed me to come to terms with what I really want in life and what I am now contemplating in regard to my career is not the field of study but my work life balance as I think studying abroad really showed me what life and the world has to offer. I want to be able to experience the world and although my career and education is still tremendously important to me, I don’t feel that I have to pretend not to be worried or that it is not okay to feel like I don’t want my career to be my entire life, which is huge for me. Although I am left a bit more lost, I am thankful that I do as I want to choose the right career path for my sanity and I would rather question that path now, than later.
My experience of sharing my reincorporation letter was relieving as I feel that telling people and saying aloud the things in life that you know are in your best interest and right for you is best for anyone’s sake as it drives people to put those thoughts and goals to action. The quote I shared with my parents is by Joseph Rain who said, “The ignorant maintain their existing beliefs, the open-minded explore new avenues, while the educated pursue what is right, better and more beneficial.” I found this quote to be very encapsulating of the person I have become due to my experience as I have learned to be a more open-minded and educated person and will now take the knowledge and approach my life in a manner that will continue to allow me to grow by permitting myself to explore the world and myself further.
I will carry my experience forward by making sure to find the beauty and opportunities within my own community to grow and learn from the people that surround me here. Just because I am in the country that I grew up in, just like I had a significant experience shape me, others have also been touched by experiences that they have learned and grown from which makes us all unique. Every person has a story that may not be apparent from the outside just like until one talks to me, they would have no idea that I have traveled the world and lived in Florence, Italy for four months. I will also continue to explore my career path and what is right for myself. I have decided to put off the MCAT and take one extra year off from medical school to use this summer as an explorative time for me to shadow multiple doctors in different fields, even PA’s as I am contemplating my work-life balance. I am also taking this time to volunteer and find passion in an organization as I feel that the trip has made me into a more selfless person that wants to do more for others. Just because I am no longer in Europe does not mean that my opportunity for self-discovery is over, because for me, it is just beginning just as Rumi said, “And you? When will you begin that long journey into yourself?”.
Slimbach, Richard. Becoming World Wise: A Guide to Global Learning.” Stylus. Sterling, Virginia. 2010.