re-en·try /ˌrēˈentrē/ noun
1. reverse culture shock or the process of an individual re-assimilating to their home country after studying abroad
It’s been one week since I got back from one of the most incredible experiences of my life, and I have decided that I can never travel again because that was way too many hours of traveling…just kidding. Although I am still jet-lagged from 14 hours of traveling back to the United States, I do not regret my study abroad experience for anything. During my last day in Spain, I experienced a lot of reflection (and tears) because Salamanca truly became not just my home but a place that helped me become a better person.
Leaving the town behind is one thing, but I can’t even begin to express how sad it was getting on the bus to the airport and leaving my host family behind because they have probably changed me the most. They will always have a place in my heart–I miss them so much. Saying goodbye to my favorite shops and restaurants, to all of my new Spanish friends, to the elementary school kids I volunteered with, and to even my favorite professor at the university, it all seemed so surreal once I boarded my plane to Chicago. I became so accustomed to the Spanish lifestyle that as much as I was ready to go home I could not fathom being back in the States.
Twenty four hours later I hopped off the plane at O’Hare airport and I was so confused because all of the signs were English, and just yesterday I was finally starting to think in Spanish. It was definitely a bittersweet feeling being at the airport because it was starting to hit me that my Spanish experience was actually over, but things got a bit sweeter when I saw my mom and brother after four months of being away from home. Not to mention I could not wait to get back to my favorite American foods–like my first meal back, Buffalo Wild Wings, which was incredible. Sinking my teeth into those hot wings was so satisfying.
But of course I didn’t come home the same person I was when I left, and I can assure everybody that after any study abroad experience, coming home the same would be virtually impossible. The good news is that this is not a bad thing! After being back for a week now, I can say that yes, there are many things I appreciate about the U.S., like the free water at restaurants or that people are a bit friendlier on the streets. But there are many things that I miss and will continue to miss about Spain, like fresh-baked croissants every morning or the siestas or the fact that the whole family eats lunch together everyday, because I think those things are very valuable.
Overall I just feel so blessed and full of gratitude that I got the chance to go abroad, even though I was so against it in the beginning because I was extremely afraid of change. I now know that change is so important to have, because when you have change in your life, it subconsciously changes your perspective of the world and helps you see the world from a different angle. I can’t express all of the changes that I feel I have gone through, but I believe I have come back to the U.S. more open and more appreciative.
The only way to grow as a person is to have new experiences, and study abroad has taught me to not be afraid to get out of my box. I hope that in the future everyone can have the time of their life studying abroad.