Everyone warned me that I’d experience reverse culture-shock coming back to the United States, but of course I didn’t really know what that would mean. I’ve lived in the U.S. my whole life—how different could it really feel to come home?
It didn’t hit me at first. My first night was normal. I got home at 10:30 p.m. I took a shower. I brushed my teeth. The next morning, I walked with my mom to get coffee in the same coffee shop I’ve always gone to. But the first thing I noticed when I walked in was all of the English-speaking. I could order my chai tea latte in English. Everyone around me was speaking my native language. I hated it.
I felt a pang in my chest, looking around the coffee shop that I’d spent countless hours in prior to going abroad. It wasn’t Sweet Ophelia, the café in Barcelona that I’d come to call my own. And suddenly, the distance between the United States and Spain felt a lot farther than it had before.
My last morning in Barcelona was like any other morning. My host mom, Alejandra, woke me up at 7 a.m. so I’d have enough time to eat breakfast before leaving for the airport. She made the usual—toasted bread, cream cheese, chorizo, cookies with coffee, and yogurt. She insisted that I take a roll of cookies and at least three pieces of fruit with me on the plane. All of a sudden I was in the cab, about to start heading to the airport. I turned around and saw Alejandra and her chihuahua, Tita, disappearing in the distance—waving goodbye at me. That’s when the tears (the tears that I didn’t expect) hit. The reality that it would be hard to return to see this new family of mine sunk in. It was over, and I didn’t know the next time I’d see my new Spanish family.
The biggest difference about being home is the boredom. I can’t just walk down the street to Plaza Catalunya to grab some ice cream with friends. And the lack of tapas and sangria is astonishing. I miss Spanish food WAY more than I expected. I haven’t come to any concrete conclusions about being back in the states because I’m still experiencing the culture shock. Every time I leave the house, I begin to make comparisons to my time in Europe. “Well in Spain they had ___.” It’s probably pretty annoying.
I miss it a lot already, and it’s been three days since I was in Barcelona. I haven’t made a better, scarier decision in my life than I have to study abroad. It’s changed me in ways that are hard to put into words. All I can say for now is that Barcelona has a piece of my heart. And I will go back.
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<p>Julia is a junior at Miami University triple-majoring in journalism, media & culture, and Spanish. She loves to read, write and spend time with friends in her free time. This past summer, she worked on a dude ranch in Colorado for three months. It was a life-changing experience that motivated her to study abroad.</p>