Home. It is a place where you feel most comfortable and where you desire to rest at the end of the day. Home may change multiple times throughout your lifetime, and I believe abroad has made this clear. I come from an average suburban town on Long Island and have little familiarity with city life. Being dropped in the center of a city across the Atlantic Ocean was clearly a new experience and required quite the learning curve. As I went through my months in Europe, my mindset and familiarity with cities began to change. By the last week, I had zero desire to return to suburban life where 10 minute drives are required to get anything. Italy had become “home.” I am most definitely going to miss walking down my apartment stairs and walking across the street and grabbing a gelato, panini or anything I can imagine. But the biggest challenge in the present is going to be reintegrating myself into life in America again.
The reintegration process is one that will require some time. I still believe at this moment I have not fully grasped that I am not returning to what had become my “home.” I still think it will be another week or so before I accept the fact and begin my new life. The hardest part of this is attempting to deliver the experience to the dozens of people who ask the “how was abroad” question. It is such a rewarding, different and non-relatable experience that it is impossible to give them an answer that covers the scope of what abroad meant to me. In addition, it is sad to talk about it because it is so fresh that I will not be going back. I believe that the reincorporation period will eventually change this sadness into appreciation.
While sharing my letter with my parents and roommates, they both had different reactions with similar meanings. My parents sympathized with the challenges of trying to leave a great experience, while encouraging that I try to see it as a learning experience. My roommates at QU reacted in a more defensive way, saying that we should try to top the experiences I had abroad. Use abroad as a learning experience to better the rest of college. Both of these reactions I found were telling me to use what I learned abroad for the good and apply it to enhance life here as a cultured individual.
In reference to returning home Slimbach writes, “our world back home will appear changed in proportion to how much we have changed through our journeys… travel often serves to awaken us to parts of our native world that we hardly recognized before” (212). This is the epitome of how I feel. I feel foreign in comparison to my friends. I feel as though I now see flaws in society that I had never realized before. Traveling does in fact open our eyes to the good and bad parts of our own home society.
In terms of habits, I feel as though I have developed some while altering others. The old habit of eating unhealthy or eating fast/junk food is no longer a part of me. I long for fresh vegetables and meats that I had daily in Europe as opposed to processed foods. This is one that was changed. One that I feel I developed however is the willingness to spend money on a whim. Abroad, I never hesitated to go out with friends or buy souvenirs, but now that I am home this is a habit I must change.
One quote I feel represents my emotions at this time is “I know where I am from, and I got used to this” by Nayvadius DeMun Wilburn. This is exactly how I feel meaning that I know I come from America, and I know the roots in which I derive, but I have become so accustomed to my new life it will by very difficult to adapt back into suburban college life.