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There and Back Again

December 25, 2017

Over a week has passed since I’ve returned home to America, but my time abroad couldn’t feel like any more of a distant memory. Though it has only been a week, I feel as if I’ve been home for quite a long time now. Many people advised me about the reverse culture shock that would occur when I arrived home, and I half expected there to be a rough reintegration process, but oddly enough I feel right at home as if I never left the area for China in the first place. It is hard to completely understand why I am not feeling the same sense of emptiness that others feel when they return home, but perhaps it is the great friends and family I have in my life or the fact that I was quite eager to return home that has made this adjustment smooth.

Since I am finally home, it is great to see friends and family. Of course, the first question they never fail to ask is “how was China?”. While I don’t mind the question whatsoever, it makes me laugh each time I hear it. The question is always poised because the person is generally interested to know how my time abroad went, but when they ask the question they generally only really care to here a simple “it was fun”, “it was interesting” or “I had fun”. Very few people want to spend the time to ask the real questions and really get me to open up. However, it’s not as if I really want to spend a ton of time sitting there explaining to someone how my time abroad was. To me it seems slightly narcissistic to center an entire conversation about my own experiences and travels. It’s not as if that person didn’t live their own life for the past 3 months and have interesting stories of their own to share. So I’ll engage in conversation about it when someone is truly interested and has specific questions, but to most I just leave it at “it was interesting”. This fact has been the most interesting realization upon my return home.

No matter how long I talk about China and what I did/saw, I will never do justice to the memories that I now carry. I can describe the taste of the food, the sight of the pollution, the sounds of Chinese being spoken everywhere around me, but none of these descriptors will ever bring to life the memories I have to someone who wants to know. I’ve been resigned to accept the fact that no other person will share the exact feelings about this time abroad as I have. People may notice small changes about me, but no one will see the changed me I now see in the mirror. In many tangible ways, I return home form an experience that has humbled me and has focused my sights on my future and my goals. Studying abroad has been indispensable to my growth, and despite that being a huge cliche about studying abroad, it remains a timeless truth.

So I’ll wrap up this post and leave this farewell short. Documenting this experience has been a pleasure to me. And if you’re reading this and thinking about studying abroad with IES Abroad, just know that there’s no better program, in my humble opinion. Go abroad, gain a global mindset, improve yourself, and improve the world.

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