A semester abroad has been something I thought about and envisioned for myself ever since high school. When I looked for colleges, I specifically inquired as to where it would even be possible for me to go abroad as a pre-med student. When I make a four-year class plan, I carefully arranged my schedule to allow a semester away from the sciences. When I struggled through the grueling course load of sophomore year, I reminded myself that that was a sacrifice I chose to make so that I would be able to study abroad. And suddenly, that semester abroad came. And now, its come and gone. I can hardly comprehend that my time in Italy is behind me.
Moving to another country by myself was not without its challenges, but as Slimbach writes, “Coming home can actually take as much getting used to as going abroad ever did, and maybe more” (Slimbach 204). I have very much found coming home to be the hardest part of this journey; reading the chapter on going home has given validation to all of the things I have struggled with since my return. When I left four months ago, I was gleefully excited, but also terrified of the unknown, apprehensive about the constant and inescapable challenges of life in a foreign country. I was optimistic about my time in Italy, but confident that when the time came for me to return home, I would be ready. Although there were certainty aspects of life at home that I missed, I did not long for it, and I definitely wasn’t anxious to return.
Slimbach had warned that home would not have changed as much as we had. I expected this. What I did not expect was how hard it would be to fit my changed self back into an unchanged place. I particularly struggled to get along with my parents, who didn’t understand the immensity of what the previous months had meant to me, had been for me. They had the opportunity to come visit for two weeks, and travel throughout Italy. They understood some aspects of Italian culture, and saw some pieces of my life there. But, for them, Italy was a vacation. And given that I only took classes Monday through Wednesday, they liked to joke that it was only a vacation for me too, albeit a four month one. When we learned about rites of passage theory, we talked about the communities acceptance of your growth as an integral part of reincorporation. This was evidently going to be a struggle for me.
When I sat down with my dad to share the reincorporation letter, he shared his observation that I had come back ‘fiercer.’ My hair was shorter, my lipstick was darker, and I was aggressively independent than ever before. I explained that when I was alone in an airport in a foreign country that spoke a language I did not understand, there was no one to call. I didn’t survive four months of the amazingly challenging lifestyle I lead by being flim-flammy, or childish. I had to be strong, I had to be independent, I had to be capable. And this made sense to him; I think it was a real moment of understanding for both of us.
More than anything, what I have felt since coming home, as Slimbach states that many do, is boredom. I drive through my small town and think how simple everything is, how little really happens here. Just a few weeks ago I could be out and about and accidently stumble upon something as magnificent, and historically significant, and thought provoking as the Colosseum. I could marvel at what was possible to build by hand at the time of Christ, and wonder what would happen if the same resources were poured behind the construction of things and ideas given the technology we have today. And that is what I miss the most. I crave the mental stimulation of the constantly challenging, constantly amazing world I lived in just weeks ago. Slimbach suggests throwing oneself into new hobbies, interests, or educational endeavors to fill the void. I hope to channel my newfound curiosity to not only further my academic success, but also to learn about new and exciting things of my own choosing.