Arriving home was surreal. After almost six months being away from home it somehow felt as if I’d been gone forever, yet at the same time never left. My family knew I’d be sad about being home so my sister and my five nieces and nephews visited for my first week home. They tried to ease me back into real life slowly. This first week home also involved lots of visits with friends and questions about abroad. I want to tell everyone how amazing it was, but it’s hard to describe. There is truly no way share what my experience was in words.
Reincorporation is described as how well someone is able to become re-established into their home community after experiencing a rite of passage. I find it the necessary evil to an amazing trip abroad. Coming home was not without its ups and downs, a multitude of emotions. Slimbach writes about how “Coming home can actually take as much getting used to as going abroad ever did, and maybe more. Where as we anticipate having to adapt ourselves to differences abroad, we don’t expect the same as we set foot back on native soil” (Slimbach 204). I really relate to this as I found coming home to be difficult. It’s not that I didn’t miss home and my friends and family, I had become accustomed to and loved my life abroad. Going home meant no more amazing adventures every day and work and school. It’s challenging to immediately jump out of this mindset that I was in for 6 months and prepping for many before that.
My separation letter was to my mom so it was only fitting that my reincorporation letter be addressed to her as well. My mom truly made my study abroad experience complete, both by being there if I ever needed her and supporting me financially. I supported myself throughout my entire study abroad experience but as often happens my budget fell short at the end. My mom didn’t want me to miss out on experiences with new friends so she lent me money. I also talked about how it was going to be an adjustment going back to living in someone else’s house and losing a big chunk of the freedom I had become accustomed to.
And it has been hard for me getting back into my old life. Reincorporation is filled with boredom, rules, work, and a longing to go back abroad. Something that helped me adjust to being home the most was speaking with friends who had also gone abroad. It’s impossible to describe the impact of being abroad to someone who hasn’t experienced it. It creates a longing for the commmunitas that had been forged overseas. Friends who had already been through their reincorporation phases helped me through mine.
Pascal Mercier said, “We leave something of ourselves behind when we leave a place, we stay there, even though we go away. And there are things in us that we can find again only by going back there”. I like this quote because I felt like I left a part of myself abroad. Not in a bad way, but in a longing. Australia and New Zealand became my homes and I fell completely in love with them. I don’t think it’s a bad thing to have left something behind because I brought back so much more in my growth as a person.
This post is coming over a month after my educational abroad experience has ended. Though my semester abroad ended on April 25th, my rite of passage did not. For the past month and a half, I have been backpacking across New Zealand. This additional trip added so many layers to my rite of passage. I went to Australia with some of my friends so I knew I would always have someone there for me to share in the experiences. In New Zealand I was by myself and it pushed me out of my comfort zone even further. I had no orientation program where I could find friends, no way of meeting people except to just put myself out there. This past month I’ve realized that no matter how much I thought I had matured and grown as a person in Australia, there was always more to go.
Saying goodbye to friends is never easy. It’s hard knowing that realistically you probably won’t see everyone again. My last week in Australia was all about saying goodbyes. My roommates and I all cooked one last dinner together and my group of friends all went out to eat. Then on the last night in Australia almost all the kids who lived in my building went to happy hour for our final goodbyes. It was a sad night. Everyone was crying and hugging and making plans to see each other in the future. It was strange for me because I wasn’t going home, not for 44 days. Everyone talked about how excited they were to see their family and friends and how they missed home so much. In some ways it made me sad that I wasn’t going home, but I also knew that within a week of being home people would get the post abroad withdrawals and want to come back.
I think my goodbyes in New Zealand are actually harder. All the close friends I made in Australia are within reasonable distances to visit from home. But, the friends I’ve made here are from all over the world and it will be so much harder to ever see them all again. The group I’ve been with for the past month is slowly going our separate ways and the goodbyes are always hard, but we’ve promised to keep in touch.
Slimbach states that “If we allow, global learning will not only carry us into the world around us, but also into this world within” (54). I think that Slimbach is trying to point out that to get the most out of an experience abroad, we have to be open and willing to let the experience impact us. I have learned so much while abroad, not just about the countries I’ve been to, but about myself. I’ve realized how important traveling the world is for me personally and it’s made me extremely passionate about being able to do so again.
Everyone’s asking me if I’m excited to go home. It’s a tough question. I’m excited to see my friends and family, but I’ve fallen in love with traveling. Every day I can’t help but marvel at how lucky I was to get the opportunity to get outside the U.S. It’s almost time to reincorporate back into my own culture and it’s slightly disappointing. Going home is going back to the real world. I have my job lined up and I’m working 6-7 days a week over the summer to try to earn back some of the money I spent. Though I’m sad, I’m not going to go home being mopey. I had a once in a life time experience and I want to show people back home how it made me into a better person.