Returning Home: The Ironic Culture Shock

Pheonix Pittman
December 30, 2019

When I first came off the plane into Buenos Aires and got in the taxi on the way to my homestay, the thoughts that consumed my mind were “What in the world am I doing?” and “Who do you think you are leaving for a whole semester?” I was excited and incredibly nervous about all of the unknown aspects of my semester abroad and there was no turning back. Now a month after my return home, it still feels unreal that I spent a whole semester away, and my new daunting task is preparing to go back to my home campus. 

While in Buenos Aires, I was in a homestay and had someone cooking for me every day and cleaning my room once a week. I was in a city with pretty good public transportation and cheap taxis so I didn’t have to drive anywhere. My only extracurricular activity with any responsibility was the IES Center Student Council. Throughout the semester, my most stressful activity was trying not to be sick so that I could enjoy my weekend getaways around South America. What a life right? Anybody who is a current college student knows that what I just described doesn’t sound like anything close to a typical college semester. When I return to Spelman’s campus, I’ll be living in a dorm and nobody will be cooking food the food I like upon request, nor will they be cleaning my room. I’ll be back in Atlanta with the option of driving through stressful traffic or taking an expensive Uber anytime I want to leave campus. I’ll be jumping back into my extracurriculars, which I love, but require more effort than a biweekly meeting. Throughout this upcoming semester, I’m not sure what will be the most stressful, but I anticipate that all of the aforementioned factors combined will make returning to my college routines one big ironic culture shock. 

Even though my impending college workload is daunting, I’m excited to see how my abroad experience will change my approach to my academic, extracurricular, and social lives on campus. Already I think that in the classroom, I’ll be able to add to discussions from a different perspective that includes my real experiences rather than just information from a textbook. Outside of the classroom, my break from campus has energized me to return with a new vision for how I can better serve my campus and the surrounding Atlanta community. My time abroad was also full of finding ways to immerse myself in the culture of Buenos Aires, and after having lived there for 4 months, I left knowing quite a bit about the city. Now that I’m home, I’m realizing how little I know about my hometown near San Antonio and my college town Atlanta. I always said I wanted to explore these important cities more, but I felt like I never had time. Now, after having explored one of the largest cities in the world in just 4 months, I’m confident that I can find the time to do the same stateside. 

I’m very excited to learn in my new classes, serve my community, and explore Atlanta when I go back. However, with that excitement comes some nerves. With the thought of going back to school in less than a month, I feel the same way I did when I was 10 days away from going to Buenos Aires: not ready. But, I do have an answer to those questions I had when I stepped off the plane in Buenos Aires. What I did was put myself into an uncomfortable position on the other side of the world, and made it one of the best experiences of my life. Who I was leaving for a whole semester was someone courageous and open enough to take that leap even with a heap of unknowns. So, after having survived one complete culture shock and loving it, I’m confident that I’ll be able to survive this shock of returning to my college culture...even if it means I have to cook my own meals. 


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Pheonix Pittman

<p>I am a third year student at Spelman College double majoring in International Studies and Spanish. I claim Boerne, Texas (right outside of San Antonio) as my home, but I have lived in over 10 places both in the U.S. and abroad as I am an Army Brat. This however, is my first time going abroad without friends or family, so join me on my journey of learning how to tango, bonding with my cohort, and learning to love Buenos Aires!</p>

Home University:
Spelman College
Boerne, TX
International Studies
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