Each semester at Quinnipiac I have had friends return from their semester abroad claiming that they are a “new person.” To be honest, I previously thought that was an over-exaggeration. Prior to this semester I was already well traveled, so I wondered if people felt changed because it was their first time seeing the world outside of the US. I quickly learned that these previous travel experiences were nothing in comparison to physically living in the host country. The level of discomfort rises dramatically when you don’t get to return home a week or two after arrival. At the same time, it also makes the experience significantly more rewarding. Therefore, the process of separation from my host country has been nothing like anything I have ever experienced. Slimbach states: “Smooth transitions and trial-free sojourns are rarities. No matter how well prepared, broad-minded, or full of good intentions we may be, entering a new culture knocks our cultural props out from under us. We spend decades learning ‘the ropes’ for effective functioning within our own society. Then, without warning, our mental programming is upset” (pg 152). As Slimbach explains, the process of assimilating to our new culture was quite arduous. So how are we supposed to just get up and leave after all the mental and physical work we put into becoming someone new? Which ‘ropes’ do we now follow, the ones we grew up learning or the new ones we learned in our host country?
Leaving Barcelona was very hard, but at this point necessary as I became the sickest I have ever been after a weekend in Morocco. It was just this week that I was taken off of constant medication. Of course I miss the freedom of living in such a big and beautiful city, along with a new adventures every weekend. However, the hardest adjustment for me has been the reincorporation process here in America. I feel like part of me is still in Spain. Here I feel more restricted than ever. I can’t just walk out my front door to a new adventure. Friends, food, and fun activities just feel so far away. People want to hear about my time in Spain, but after a few minutes they begin to appear bored. People don’t want to hear all the funny stories or amazing adventures you experienced with your newfound friends. At the same time, it’s hard to tell them these stories because they don’t quite understand or appreciate what you have seen and done.
It’s been hard for me to look at my hometown the same since returning home. Huntington has been my home all my life; I have always loved it for its large size and high energy. Don’t get me wrong, I still enjoy my life here. But it’s hard not to feel like my surroundings have shrunk. My large Long Island town doesn’t feel so huge anymore, and the people aren’t as perfect as I thought they were. Meeting people from all over the world has given me a new perspective as to what it really means to be a global citizen. I have definitely noticed some changes in my everyday habits. The first day home (unfortunately spent seeing multiple doctors for my mystery illness from Morocco) I said hola to the first stranger I saw. I know that’s a small thing, but it showed me how comfortable I had become speaking the local language that it was just second nature. I even nearly left a restaurant without tipping (oops).
I shared my separation letter with my best friend Kerry. I wanted to share it with my parents, but I think I need more time for that. They are so happy that I had such a great experience, that I am not ready to tell them how unhappy I am to be back in the states. Of course it is not because of them, but I would hate for them to take it that way, as if they are inferior to Barcelona. I have seen Kerry a few times since my arrival. However just the other day was our first normal day since I have been sick. This may sound weird, but I shared it with her at our barn. It is where both of us feel most at home. We sit in my horse Jake’s stall all the time and talk about life. I explained to her my feelings about missing Barcelona and feeling lost in a town where I was always so comfortable before. Of course she was supportive, but wasn’t exactly sure what to say. She hasn’t seen the world in the same way I have, and is fully aware of that. However, I am more than appreciative of her friendship and know that I can always go to her when I’m feeling this way. I am forever grateful to have such a supportive best friend.
Slimbach, Richard. Becoming World Wise: A Guide to Global Learning. Sterling, VA: Stylus Pub., LLC, 2010. Print.