Well, it was a great run, but I’m finally back home in the United States (full disclaimer: I have actually been home for about two weeks, but I was so sad to be writing this final post/was adjusting to hearing English 24/7 that I just couldn’t write it.) But I can’t put it off anymore, so here it goes.
First and foremost: coming home is weird. Really weird. Our group flight landed in New York City at around 7:30 in the morning, and I was going to spend the next few days hanging out with some college friends in Manhattan before finally heading back to West Virginia. This was a cool plan, but it was also a big mistake because New York nearly crushed me with culture shock. Well, it did and it didn’t. I ended up using my Argentine hospitality to take a porteña to Times Square, and we spent the entirety of our subway ride chatting in Spanish. This made the whole transition process a little easier (not the mention the fact that I was already using some of the skills I had developed abroad!) but it made me sad when she left and I was surrounded by people who only spoke English. I don’t know, it feels really pompous and weird to write, but for my first few days back, I had a really hard time figuring out where I belonged. I mean, obviously I wasn’t Argentine, but I definitely didn’t feel like your run of the mill yanqui either.
Things got a little better when I finally got to my friend’s apartment, but not fully. And things still weren’t fully better by the time I got home. A pretty big realization hit me after my first week back in the States, and it’s something nobody ever really talks about. Are you ready for it?
Nobody is going to get it.
That is, unless they’ve studied abroad before. If you’ve got amazing friends and family like I do, they’ll listen to you tell a dozen different stories about the times you got lost in Palermo Soho, Palermo Hollywood, or Palermo Dead, but if you’re like me, eventually you’ll feel like they don’t care anymore. I don’t think that’s really true. I think it’s just impossible for people who haven’t experienced a cultural immersion like that which is provided with a study abroad program to understand the emotions we’re feeling when we’re finally back. And you know what? That’s totally okay.
Embarrassing story time: I have an amazing friend who spent this past year studying in England (this is not the embarrassing part.) Anyway, she came home before me, and we were chatting about a week ago, and I asked her, “Was this real? Did I really go to Argentina?” You might be chuckling at this — I know I am — but it’s true. She had the same sentiments after coming home, and a lot of my other friends have, too. Studying abroad marks such a liminal phase in our lives, that, for me, it was alarming to be suddenly thrust out of that now-familiar environment and to be away from the friends I had come to love. You might feel this way, too. And you know what? That’s totally okay.
Things are getting better now. It’s almost time for me to go back to school, so that’s been good to think about. I have also been fortunate enough that all my Spanish-speaking friends I met in Argentina haven’t forgotten me, so we text pretty much every day. That has been great for maintaining my Spanish, and I absolutely cannot wait to see them all again. I plan on returning to South America immediately after I graduate. I would like to try another Latin American country before returning to Argentina, but Buenos Aires will always have a special place in mi corazόn.