Being Home

The number one question I’ve been asked is, “How was Spain?”

My standard answer: “It was amazing.”

Because how else can you summarize seven months of living a dream?

The number two question I’ve been asked is, “How is it to be back?”

My standard answer: “It’s nice to see everyone but I don’t like it.”

And that’s the most honest and concise answer I could possibly give without crying.

I don’t want to be here. In all honesty, I highly resent the fact that I have one more year of school left and thus, didn’t have a choice. I had to leave.

It makes for an interesting situation these days. Most people hype up senior year as the ultimate of life experiences. Senior year is supposed to be full of fun and excitement. We’re at the top of the totem pole, so to speak. We get classes in our specialties. We know what we’re doing and we’re confident.  And then, after May 2016, it’s all downhill into the workforce and drudgery of adult life.

So what am I supposed to do when in my head, the ultimate of life experiences already ended on July 31, 2015?

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Now before everyone starts going in on me about all I have to look forward to this year…I know.

Believe me, I know. Because I repeat them to myself daily to remind myself that it’s not all bad.

I’m on the student boards of two organizations I’m highly passionate about. I have classes I (mostly) like. I get to start writing again. I get to dance again. I get to see my family and friends whenever I want.

And I know I have a lot to look forward to afterwards. A job back overseas (probably? hopefully?). Being a completely autonomous adult. Etc.

But I’m struggling a lot.

Most people assume it’s because I left a boyfriend behind. I do miss him a lot. An intercultural, intercontinental long distance relationship isn’t easy. So in one sense, they’re right. This period of adjustment and reintroduction to the U.S. and my old normal would be made slightly easier if I didn’t have that connection.

But I miss Spain. I miss Sevilla.

I lived in Indianapolis for 20 years but it took until college for me to feel any kind of deep attachment to the city.

I was in Sevilla for about two weeks before I told my mom point blank that I didn’t want to come home.

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I knew from my time in Mexico that coming back from Spain would also be hard, especially because I’d desperately wanted to go for so long. But in my head, it was a rainbows and roses vision of trying not to preface anything with, “When I was in Spain…” and then telling all my tales of going out with friends and traveling etc.

It’s not all rainbows and roses. Or unicorns.

It’s thunderstorms and thorns. It’s trying so hard to recapture that perfect senior year mindset and attitude so that I don’t look back with regrets on this year. It’s simultaneously missing a particular city and people. It’s having a few hours open up yesterday afternoon and having my first thought be, “I wonder if Ale is free?” before remembering that no, he’s not, because he’s not even on the same continent. It’s giving my Universidad de Sevilla ID card to the lady at IUPUI Parking Services. It’s ordering my coffee in Spanish several times before realizing that the baristas aren’t stupid, they just literally don’t know what I’m saying.

It’s also little things.

It’s trying hard to get used to non-Costa iced coffee. It’s remembering to check for my driver’s license not my metro card. It’s refusing to ever eat broccoli again. It’s missing all my fellow CIEE participants. It’s running through various routes to get to the Fabrica in my head while knowing I most likely will never have to know those routes again.

I’m getting ready to do a study abroad panel/event in a few weeks and there I’ll give my spiel about how much fun Spain was, how I came home basically fluent, how I got to travel a ton etc. I’ll also tell them that it is hard to be dropped into another country. To be prepared for the cultural and linguistic barriers. I’ll give my stories about going to class at a local university and traveling on my own. Basically the same type of stories and spiel I received prior to arriving.

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But I wish someone had told me that sometimes returning home is as difficult as leaving. That reverse culture shock is a very real thing and that the one paragraph about it in your pre-departure materials has not adequately prepared you for the very possible reality of feeling completely lost on your return home.

It’s getting better a tiny bit every week. Being in a routine with classes and work helps. I’ve gone back to the “normal” I knew before January. My brain can’t focus constantly on what I don’t have. So I really can’t blame it for not being the normal I really want back, the normal I had found in Sevilla.

So for now, I’ll drink my Americanized tinto de verano, relish the moments in class when I get to speak Spanish (something I once dreaded), and finally never stop encouraging other students to study abroad. Because despite all of this and the struggles to readjust, I wouldn’t trade it for the world.

As the infamous Winnie the Pooh said (really A.A. Milne said it let’s be real):

“How lucky I am to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard.”

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One thought on “Being Home

  1. Rebecca, oh how I feel your pain. You are grieving and yes, suffering from reverse culture shock. I spent 6 weeks in Spain 2 summers ago, and also went on a return trip last fall for a church mission. I wrote about my readjustment here, http://ardisanelson.com/2013/11/13/the-reality-of-culture-shock/. People who haven’t lived it, can’t understand it. Spain changed me. I still long to live there and think about it often. Give yourself the space and permission to grieve the loss. As you said, we are lucky. Now you have to learn to live in the aftermath of the mountaintop experience.

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