When I came back from my first study abroad experience in high school, my mom bought me a book, Burn-Up or Splash Down by Marion Knell, which I only read some of, but that deals with the difficulties that many people have when returning home after being overseas or away from home for a long time. All of the ideas in the book are very good, and it deals with all types of “re-entries”. I recommend it to anyone that is anticipating coming home after a long time out of country or knows someone who is.
To be honest, I think that studying abroad for a year or less generally does not present too many difficulties for most people when they return home. And I think this because the experience of being a university student or a student in general does not vary much from country to country. Students everywhere generally participate in the same activities and live fairly similar lives wherever they are studying. Whether you’re a university student in New Mexico or Poland, you’re still going to have to attend classes, make friends, have some type of social life, work out, and sleep somewhere. It doesn’t change as much as you’d think.
For me, some of the biggest changes to note is the climate, the people, and the way of life. The Spanish climate isn’t too different from New Mexico except that the humidity is greater across Spain. (Man, I am loving the dry heat again.) The people that are most difficult to part with are the ones that you have made good relationships with, and while it is difficult to part with new friends, I convince myself that I will see them again somewhere along the road to come.
The way of life is probably the biggest change of them all, and constitutes most of the “culture shock” for a university study when returning. Those student who were of legal drinking age outside of the United States may not be legal in the United States. You may have to drive a car everywhere when you get back when you were used to walking or taking public transportation (Madrid vs. Albuquerque in a nutshell). The party/social scene may look different from country to country and city to city. Food is always hard to give up, but often something we are most looking forward as we have acquired specific tastes and likes over time at home.
Even though I was happy to get back to New Mexico and go back to a little of the way things were, there is a certain part of me that was sad to unpack my 70 pounds of everything that I owned for an entire year (well everything that made the cut to come back). Feels weird to go from having 15 shirts to remembering that I had another 40 shirts in a box in my parents garage. Do I really need all of those shirts, especially now that I know I can live with 15? And I think the most important realization is that, even as cliche as it sounds, things have changed, I changed, friends changed, my brothers sure the hell grew up (just up, not really in maturity yet), and it is good to bring some change back home with you.
That said, I am happy to be home with my family and returning to school system that I understand and back to being able to drive whenever I need to.
See you in the fall at UNM, should be another interesting semester, as it always is.
P.S. As usual, if anyone has any questions, feel free to reach out at firstname.lastname@example.org. And I multiple people have commented to me IRL about the amount of typos in my posts, and I want to say sorry, but at the same time, this is my last blog post, and for the sake of continuity, I didn’t proofread it either. 😉