After what seemed like an eternity on an airplane and waiting for luggage that I thought would never come, my homecoming had finally arrived. When I awoke last Wednesday, I was honestly nervous to return home. Had a lot changed since I left? Would I be able to easily reconnect with family and friends? Would they be annoyed after the fifth time I mentioned Paris (I have many stories to tell!)? But as I walked out of the double doors at the boarder patrol station and saw my family waving teary-eyed with huge smiles on their faces, all of my concerns vanished.
That is not to say, however, that I have not come across specific challenges. Many of my friends say, “Tell me Paris stories!” or “I want to hear all about it!” But each time, I cannot seem to express my gratitude for the experience that made me contemplate my entire future—quite a big deal for anyone who knows me (I always have everything planned to a tee). How do you sum up four months into four sentences? In my opinion, it is impossible and utterly inadequate to briefly describe the trip of a lifetime that made me seriously reflect on my true passions for the first time in awhile. As I may have mentioned in previous logs, I feel as though I have not yet left the liminal phase. Instead, I am in a limbo of indecisiveness; what do I do next? Who do I seek out to help me through this life transition? What will ultimately be the right career choice for me, moving forward?
After writing my reincorporation letter, I was satisfied with its message. Sometimes, I feel like writing down your ideas expresses them more thoroughly than simply stating them. When written on paper, words are permanent and difficult to disregard. Although someone may refuse to address them, your ideas are well thought out and subject to change; you can always return to a paper or a journal entry to edit but words are much harder to take back once they are said. In the same token, I wanted to write a letter that explained the difficult reincorporation I would face, without seemingly placing the blame on my family. Parents want to do everything in their power to help their children through a tough situation but I unfortunately have to brave this one alone. I asked for their utmost patience and that it would be a two-way street: I would be patient with my newly unfamiliar communitas and that they would provide patience with frustrations that I may encounter. After reading, my mother thought it was simply stated and well written and she agreed to try to be as patient as possible.
Obviously the study abroad experience does not simply end after your return home. Think about it: you underwent a transformation and whether you like it or not, those memories will stay with you for the rest of your life. That being said, I want to take the time to discuss how I will carry forward all that I have learned. I touched upon it briefly before, but studying abroad taught me to be independent, relying upon my own knowledge to find solutions to problems. Heading back to campus, I hope to employ the same mindset throughout the semester. If there are any issues with scheduling or coursework, the first thing I do is immediately email the professor. Perhaps before that step, I can do my own research and solve the problem myself, without relying so heavily on my wonderful advisor (who I am sure is sick of our incessant email correspondence).
Although study abroad is an all-together positive experience, it can sometimes highlight our biggest faults. I personally need to work on being more independent, using my advisor as a resource as opposed to a crutch, but also learning to be patient. I have already found myself reflecting upon my impatience in the most random of places—driving (once a familiar habit), grocery shopping and simply occupying my time. Studying abroad has a feeling of instant gratification—everything you could ever want is in one place. If I were bored, I would venture out into the streets to discover a new little corner of Paris. Now, I have returned to a town where I have lived for twenty years, with little left to discover…or is there? By being patient, I can allow everyday life, although sometimes boring and grueling, to occasionally surprise me. After all, Miriam Beard said, “Travel is more than the seeing of sights; it is a change that goes on, deep and permanent, in the ideas of living.”