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Friday, January 10, 2014

Warning: Reverse Culture Shock is Not a Theory

There came a time towards the end of my semester in Sevilla when I thought to myself, "Please hurry up and be December 22 so I can go home already!"

Now don't get me wrong, I was having the time of my life this past semester (seriously, I think my life can only go downhill from here), but as the days crept closer towards my December departure date I was getting anxious to see my friends and family back home, eat the food I went the previous 4 months without, and get back into the swing of an American lifestyle.

I blinked and then it was December 22. I boarded the plane, listened to "Home" by Phillip Phillips as I anxiously twirled my ankle for the entire 9 hour flight, and landed in Washington D.C. at 6:30 p.m. I trudged through the airport with my over packed bags digging into my shoulders, listening to the sounds of obnoxiously loud voices and counting the overwhelming number of fast food options. And let's be real; McDonald's is not the same when it doesn't offer una tostada con aceite y tomate as a breakfast option.

At first it was great. I met my new dog that my parents adopted while I was gone, read a lot of books, watched a lot of Netflix, baked cupcakes, and spent quality time with the people I missed while abroad. 2 weeks of that and I was like "Yup, ready to head back to school in Sevilla!"

Oh, wait. That's awkward. I'm not on vacation, this is real life, and I'm not heading back to Sevilla any time soon. what?

On January 7 I headed back to Elon University in a confused state of mind. I was bursting with excitement to see the friends I hadn't seen since May, of course, but I was also letting my thoughts linger on the friends I grew close with in Sevilla that I may or may not ever see again. There is so much that I talked about with my friends in Sevilla that my friends back at school will never know or fully understand. Believe me when I say that a lot happens in 4 months, and these people now know 4 months worth of stories from my life. They were there for me despite my weird eye twitch, despite my deafening and unattractive laugh, despite my obsession with Leonardo DiCaprio, despite my tendency to press the snooze button a million times while sharing a hostel (sorry Savannah and Edward!), despite the amount of times I asked to borrow money because I was perpetually broke and despite the overwhelming amount of times when I shoved my Bloggie in their faces trying to get some good footage for a video. They listened to my daily rants about my evil host family, about that guy back home who was a complete jerk to me, and about my decision to remain forever alone with fifty cats. But the absolute best was when I could make them laugh, because nothing brought me greater joy than to see and hear my friends' laughter. And  in our end of the semester superlatives, I lucky to be nominated "Most likely to end up on Comedy Central." What amazing friends I have. It's not every day that a group of 20 study abroad students become as close as our group did. It hurts realizing that I won't have those same shoulders to lean on now because everyone is now scattered across the country.

I pushed my feelings into the back of my mind as I unpacked a bag of clothes into my temporary living situation. I was being silly. I was back at school and everything was going to be just like last year. I didn't have time or the need for these mixed emotions.

But it's not the same. All of my friends at school came back with different abroad experiences and we are now living all across campus. I don't see them everyday like I did last year, I find myself alone a lot, and I find that my interests have changed a lot. My confused thoughts rapidly melted into negative emotions.

I am very sad right now, but at least I know I'm not alone now. I talked with my friends who went abroad and said, "Are you okay? Like, are you happy?" We are all in the same boat. While it's exciting to be back at Elon for the second half of our junior year, we're out of place and in a funk. We long for the cultures and languages that no longer surround us. We now know the meaning of the phrase, "You don't know what you have until it's gone."

I now know that when people who went abroad before me warned me about reverse culture shock that they weren't kidding, because this sucks. However, while it's sad right now, I know that things will get better. I'm getting by with a little help from my friends.

Until next time,