What It Means to Come Home

Claire Iverson
January 3, 2019

Coming home from study abroad has been nothing like I expected.  I’m not sure if there are any specific differences that I anticipated, but I did definitely anticipate at least some sense of change.  Everyone I spoke to (who had studied abroad before I did) told me that returning to your home city and university were the toughest parts of the whole experience.  As such, I expected to find it challenging to fall back into my life in Baltimore, after feeling like I had developed another existence in another country.  I was worried about readjusting to cultural differences, even though it is the culture I grew up in.  I also worried about feeling more distant from my friends who stayed in the U.S. this semester.

As I was packing up my little room in Milan and preparing to head home, I experienced quite a bit of anxiety about this.  The days leading up to my departure had been filled with worry and sadness about leaving; everything felt so finite.  My time felt limited in a way I’ve never really experienced before.  On the plane, I resigned myself to having to come home.  Of course, I was eager to see friends and family, but I couldn’t help focusing on all the relationships I was leaving behind, too.

But when I stepped off my flight, I was surprised by my reaction: instead of a feeling of displacement, I felt immediately grateful to be home.  I breathed a sigh of relief that I hadn’t known I’d been holding in.

Sometimes when I come home from a trip, no matter how long or short it’s been, I feel like I never left in the first place.  Seeing how little things at home have changed while I’ve been gone puts me back in the mindset of being home, of having tasks to complete and deadlines to meet, and tests to study for, and completely eradicates the mindset of vacation (or in this case, the mindset of studying abroad).  I experienced this feeling in full since I’ve returned from my semester in Italy.  Plus, I am sure that arriving home just in time for the panic and stressors that often come with the winter holiday season certainly did not help with my adjustment: I was immediately swept up in a whirlwind of Christmas planning, visits with friends to celebrate my return, and unpacking only to repack for my move back into my apartment.  I hardly had a moment to relax, let alone process what my semester abroad signified to me.

After New Years, I’ve started settling in much more.  With the high energy of the holidays finally past and people returning to normal life and work hours, I too am returning to a sense of normalcy.  But with that normalcy I’m also experiencing some of those cultural discrepancies I was worried about: I get confused when the price at the register is higher than the list price (thanks, taxes), I sometimes have trouble thinking of English expressions, and I’m surprised by the lack of public transportation systems and how spread out everything is.  Not to mention, classes aren’t even close to starting yet -- I am sure that will be another hurdle entirely, and one I am not quite ready for.

But I do feel ready to face the obstacle of readjustment in every way I can, thanks to my time abroad.  I didn’t expect this experience to have the impact on me that it did; that is something that I don’t think anyone can ever really prepare for.  Study abroad did not make me a different person, which I expected it to – instead, it has transformed me into a much better version of myself.  For that, I am forever grateful.

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Claire Iverson

<p>I am in love with many different things: with music, with languages, with literature, with cuisine, with other cultures. I study opera and international studies at two leading institutions, and am constantly trying to find the best balance between these two fields, incorporating socializing and personal time. In my spare time I love to read. I believe very passionately that connecting with other people and cultures through commonalities like food and music makes me a more developed individual, and that I am a better person because of opportunities in which this can manifest -- like studying abroad!</p>

2018 Fall
Home University:
Johns Hopkins University
Baltimore, MD
International Affairs
Music Performance
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