When I first decided to study abroad, counselors would always show me the “study abroad roller coaster” chart, explaining how throughout the months I was there I would have different highs and lows. If you look up “study abroad roller coaster” on Google, the first image that comes up is actually the one I saw the most. While my first few months of the “roller coaster” didn’t really line up with what they predicted, I must say the descriptions of going home were spot on.
Since being home, I’ve gone through the initial excitement of being with family and friends again, followed by a “judgmental period” and a “realization stage” that leads to “reverse culture shock.” While the order in which I experienced these things didn’t exactly follow the chart (I think I hit realization far too early on when I was a sobbing mess at the Amsterdam airport), surprisingly I’ve had as hard of a time adjusting to being home as everyone said I would. And that’s not even including the jet lag that’s put me to bed at 8pm for nights on end.
All of the advertisements that pop up on my computer, be it Instagram or YouTube, are still in Dutch, serving as a constant reminder that just one week ago I was still in Amsterdam. The hardest part, for me, has been having to get used to being separated from my roommates and friends I made while abroad. The people I’ve grown so used to talking to everyday are now scattered throughout different time zones. It’s not as easy to keep up with each other, not as easy to feel like we’re a part of each other’s lives anymore.
While I’m thrilled to be back in a place that has good Mexican food, I can’t help but miss some of my favorite Amsterdam classics. Fries with mayo, Grizzl veggie burgers, and the falafel place down the block from my apartment are foods I know I’ll be craving for a long time to come.
And while I’m excited to get back to Ithaca, my home school, and to resume my life there I think I’ll always have a little hole in my heart without Amsterdam. These have been some of the best months of my life and it feels impossible to truly end this chapter.
On that first weekend, a group of us went out to dinner along one of the smaller canals. A friend from Brazil taught me a new word that doesn’t exist in English. The word was “saudade,” and it means “a deep emotional state of nostalgic or profound longing for an absent something or someone that one loves.” I knew as soon as I landed in this city that it was going to hurt to leave, and yeah it probably hurts a bit more having to leave all these amazing friends I’ve made along with it. But everyone was right when they told me it’d be a life changing few months for me. And I think I have the friends I’ve made here to thank for that more than anything else.
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<p>My name is Makai Andrews, born and raised in Los Angeles, California. I attended a boarding school, Interlochen Arts Academy, for my final two years of high school in northern Michigan before making another big jump across the country to study as a double major in writing and psychology at Ithaca College. Right now, I am working on coming to the conclusion that in order to write well, you have to live well.</p>