I have now been back in America for two full weeks, though it feels like much longer. I do not feel like I’ve had a normal post-study-abroad adjustment period, and unfortunately I doubt that I ever will. In fourteen days I have said goodbye to the country which had begun to feel like home, seen my best friend and house for the first time in ten-and-a-half months, finally had to come to terms with the fact that my dog died while I was in England, packed up my entire room and thrown away many of my childhood belongings, moved to a new town thirty-five minutes away, and stayed only one night there before rushing off to my friend’s lake house on Lake Winnipesauke for the week. I am on my way back from New Hampshire now, and I will have only two-and-a-half weeks at home before I go back to school. Because I’m going through so many confusing changes in addition to coming back to America, I’m almost too confused to say anything about reverse culture shock or anything else that I might have felt more distinctly if I had returned to a settled, slow-paced environment.
One thing I know for sure is that I definitely want to spent as much of my future life in England as possible. Anyone who is familiar with me at all will know that I don’t like America very much, and that this is one of the reasons I want to live in England. But more importantly, when I was at Oxford I finally found a place where simply existing made me happy. Although this year was amazing, it wasn’t perfect. But no matter what kind of stress I was going through while I was there, I felt good simply because I was in England. I think that it’s small things like that which create happiness in the end, rather than big, dramatic events. So, to some extent I lost that feeling of simple happiness now that I’m back in America. This loss has definitely been one of the major themes of my return so far.
Of course, there have been positives to my homecoming as well. Thanks in part to my academic experience at Oxford, I now have a clearer idea of the kind of career I want to pursue. For this reason I’m looking forward to returning to my home university. Like all of my other experiences abroad, this year has given me a lot of confidence and perspective (I’ll never be afraid to write another paper after Oxford) and I’m excited to apply everything I learned to my American life. Also, seeing my friends has been amazing. It’s great to meet new people, but it can be exhausting after a long time and sometimes it’s nice to be around the people who know you already.
I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about the concept of home this year, both when I was abroad and now that I’m back in America. Did it make sense to call England “home” over the past year because I was so happy there, even though I’d spent less than a year in the country? Can I really say that I’m “home” right now, if I am likely to spend less than a total of two months in my brand new house over the next year? Every familiar place and person here feels slightly and indescribably different, a sensation that I can link to my year abroad with certainty. It’s disconcerting, and it makes this country feel less like home than ever. But while study abroad might be the source of this displacement in a way, it has also taught me how to move past it. I now have a clearer idea of what I want in life, and I’ve learned to deal with uncertainties better. While I may be unsure of where to call “home” at the moment, I am confident that, sometime in the future, I will be capable of creating my own sense of belonging wherever I decide to do so.