Recollections After India

Everyone says that the hardest part about studying abroad is the return home. “Reverse culture shock” is a phenomenon commonly cited to explain our feelings of angst and restlessness while re-adjusting to an old lifestyle which seems comparatively outdated and monotonous.

It makes sense, considering the amazing experiences that most of us were fortunate enough to have while studying abroad. We have travelled the world, seen and done things that have shaped us into entirely new people, yet now we find ourselves drifting back in time, returning from the breathtaking unknown to a familiar routine. How will it pan out? Will things ever be the same?

Of course not, but that’s all part of the journey.

And perhaps it is the most important part at that. Returning is our chance to take everything we have learned while gone and put it into action on a practical scale. It is a chance to prove that this was not just a vacation, but rather a life changing experience. It is a chance to change ourselves and our world.

I believe one of the last things I wrote to myself before leaving India was a simple piece of advice: hold onto this. While abroad, I trekked the Himalayas and swam in the Arabian Sea. I held a newborn baby in a small village medical facility and stared into the fires of cremation on the riverbanks of the Ganges. I saw the sunrise over the deserts of Tilonia, and set over the slums of Delhi.

These are all memories now, but memories that I know I will carry with me for the rest of my life. This leg of the journey may be over, but the experience has become a part of me, and so there is no sense in mourning it. Rather, I will forever relish in my adventures and the effect they have had on me.

I have been back in the states for only a few days now, and already feel myself returning to an old way of life. But there is something different – a larger sense of perspective that was not there before, a willingness to do and try new things whatever the cost.

I give thanks to everyone who made this experience possible for me – my parents, the UC system, IES, all its staff, and most importantly the 23 students from all over the country who took this leap with me. The journey was only so valuable in as much as it was shared with some of the most amazing people I have ever met in my life.

And so now it is on to the next phase. It is not so much a return to routine – if travelling has taught me anything, it is that life is as dynamic as one wills it to be – but a return to my roots. To my friends, my family, my home, and the path I have set myself upon thus far. And that’s not such a bad thing after all.