For my first few days home, all I really did was sleep. I was so jet lagged that I was tired all the time and couldn’t bring myself to do anything. It was very challenging for me to be back because I went from a place where everything was a 5 minute walk away back home to where I needed to drive 15 minutes if I wanted to go to the grocery store. At the same time, as soon as my plane touched the ground at JFK, it felt like my whole abroad experience was a dream. It was also challenging because none of my family or friends back here understood what it was like to be abroad, to travel so much, to have so much knowledge to share. I felt like any time I shared a story about a different country I was in my friends almost got annoyed, like they were thinking, “Not this again.” I then remembered how important it was to have a healthy reincorporation into our home culture, as we learned many months ago in our seminars. When I was reading Slimbach’s book, one quote stood out: “’You can’t go home again.’ That’s because 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” (Slimbach 205). This is probably the most accurate description of how I feel being home. I love being near my family again. I love being in the same time zone as my boyfriend again. But I feel that I am such a different person from when I left. I became so much more independent, and I had such an amazing time in this other culture than America almost seems…mediocre.
I decided to share my reincorporation letter with my family. I shared it with them about 5 days after I returned home. I wanted to make sure I could condense all of my feelings into a small session of discussion so they could all understand what I was feeling. I sat my mom and my sisters down in our living room just so we could all talk normally. I was kind of nervous to talk to them. I was worried they would think I wasn’t happy to be home. However, as I started to read them my letter and tell them how I was feeling, that nervousness went away. They were very engaged and understanding of what I was saying. I was relieved that they understood where I was coming from and could feel what I was feeling through what I was saying. They said that they were glad I felt changed by my experience because that’s why I went. They told me that no matter how much I changed, and/or will continue to change, they will always accept me and will always be excited to hear my stories. It really made me feel like I gave my transition a little bit of closure. Even though my physical experience abroad ended, it will live on forever through my stories and memories. I showed my family this picture. I felt it really showed what good things could come out of my successful reincorporation into my home culture. They agreed, and they said they would do anything I needed them to do in order to make my transition the most successful it could be. I was glad this letter sharing went so well. I felt more at home from that point on.
I know that when I go back to Quinnipiac in August that I will have many friends eager to hear stories from when I was abroad. I will make sure to share with them any knowledge I learned. I especially am excited to share what I learned about international finance with my finance major friends. I found it so interesting that I could learn so much about a different culture so fast. I can’t wait to bring all my knowledge back to my friends and to the place I haven’t seen in 8 months. Being abroad, I learned the importance of spending time alone to collect my thoughts. I will make sure that I take time to myself. Even though it will be tempting to spend every second with my friends I haven’t seen in so long, I know it will be important for me to preserve the sense of independence and individuality I gained while I was abroad.
“Never make your home in a place. Make a home for yourself inside your own head. You’ll find what you need to furnish it – memory, friends you can trust, love of learning, and other such things. That way it will go with you wherever you journey.” -Tad Williams
This quote resonates so much with how I’m feeling right now. I know that I will always have a home in London, and in Newtown, and at Quinnipiac. All these homes will remain in my head and go with me wherever the future takes me. I’m so grateful for my study abroad experience and the amazing friends I made, the endless things I learned, and the independent person I’ve become.