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There and Back Again

“If there weren’t any other people, there wouldn’t be any you because what you do, which is what you are, only has meaning in relation to other people.  That is a very comforting thought when you are in the car in the rain at night alone, for then you aren’t you, and not being you or anything, you can really lie back and get some rest.”

Robert Penn Warren,  All the King’s Men

Now that I’ve been home almost a month and finally finished recounting my adventures abroad, it’s time to reflect back over the semester and close the blog.  I cannot believe how quickly it went by.  It seems like just yesterday I was starting to think about packing and writing a draft of my predeparture blog on scrap paper during slow shifts at work.  It’s now five months later, and I don’t know where to begin.

Being back home is a difficult feeling for me to describe.  I haven’t even quite reconciled it with myself.  In a lot of ways, it is like I never left.  The routines of home slid right back on comfortably and “reverse culture shock” is not a real thing, at least for me.  New Zealand was like a dream, and whenever people ask me about it, I struggle to find words that adequately capture the essence of my experience.  Usually, I just cop out by saying it was amazing and I loved it.  Which I suppose actually summarizes my semester quite well.

This is not to say that I do not enjoy talking about New Zealand at every given opportunity.  Just that I’m more likely to talk more animatedly about little anecdotes or stories than the broad picture.  I haven’t quite found a way to give an extended narrative account of my time out of the country.  Which is probably actually okay, since no one really wants to hear you drone on about your travels unless they’ve been there, or are soliciting you for information to plan their own trip.  And it’s probably better that I don’t dwell on everything about New Zealand, because then I would miss it even more.  I think the key to avoiding the reverse culture shock is the same as adjusting to a new country initially: stay busy, and remember the aspects of life at home you enjoy rather than pining for what you want back there.  I’ve been spending a lot of time with my friends, family, and dogs and that means I am (for the most part), too distracted to want to head back (though I did experience a moment of depression when The Hobbit trailer came on and I realized I had no idea when I would be back in Middle Earth again).

Home has been great though.  I’m so lucky to have a great family and friends who I’m so close to that you can just pick up right where you left off as if you were never separated.  I can only hope that the friends I made abroad will prove to be similar in that respect.

I truly believe that everyone should study abroad.  It doesn’t really matter where (though I’m obviously an advocate for New Zealand…or Australia as you can seem almost all of either country in a single semester if you plan it out well), but just go out and do it.  Force it to fit into your schedule. Take out the extra loans to pay for it.  You will not regret a single penny of your time. I could have graduated in three years had I not gone abroad, but then I would have missed out on an incredible, once-in-a-lifetime experience.  It sounds so cheesy, but you really do grow and learn a lot about yourself.  It’s impossible not to, since you’re completely immersed in a brand-new place in which you have no connections.  You have to learn to define yourself outside of who, what, and where you know.  Which is why I’ve included the Robert Penn Warren quote at the beginning of this post.  New Zealand rejuvenated me.  It opened my mind and recharged me for the future.  I may have lost studying abroad as something to look forward to, but the rest of my life has barely begun.

I’m so happy I chose New Zealand, and I will come back again one day.  I did see most of the country, but there are still places I need to see, like the entire west coast, the Catlins, Kaikoura, Nelson, and the Otago Peninsula (I know, I know…it’s a huge sin that I never made it out there since it’s roughly a twenty-five minute drive from campus).  I also will be here in the summer; winter is gorgeous in it’s own way, but I’m more of a shorts and a tank top kind of girl.  I don’t particularly care to walk around with a blanket on (which I wore like a cape, according to my flatmates) indoors.

Thanks for bearing with me and reading through all of this.  I enjoyed writing it and hope I was effectively able to project how much I loved this semester and can inspire others to travel.  I’ll leave you with one of my favorite Tolkien quotes, in homage to my favorite author:

“The Road goes ever on and on
Down from the door where it began.
Now far ahead the Road has gone,
And I must follow, if I can,
Pursuing it with eager feet,
Until it joins some larger way
Where many paths and errands meet.
And whither then? I cannot say.”

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