Just like at the beginning of this journey, before landing at home my feelings were all over the place. Considering how late my program ended I was definitely excited to see my family and friends and start my summer. However, I made a lot of my closest friendships toward the end of my semester and it was sad to leave them not knowing when I would see them again. Since being home I’ve definitely been hyper-sensitive to my surroundings. For example, quarters feel much smaller in my hand, compared to colones, and my backyard looks much bigger. But overall, I’m grateful to have had such an incredible experience abroad. Costa Rica will always have a place in my heart.
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As the new year approaches, I’ve been enjoying home for the past two weeks; catching up with friends, wolfing down pizza and bagels, and indulging in the English music I’ve blocked out the past five months. It was an adjustment going from the sunny 80 degree weather of Buenos Aires to the cold 35 degrees of New Jersey, but it’ll a good transition for when I return to the tundra known as Maine where Bates is located. The biggest shock has definitely been being able to understand random conversations from people I pass on the street. It’s also been a change reading signs- the words simply glazing past with no effort while in BA there was usually some degree of delay from reading the words to processing their meaning.
Post-study abroad slump hasn’t hit me…yet. I’m hoping that staying busy will keep me occupied so I don’t look at abroad pictures for too long. If I get nostalgic, I’ll have the music of Soda Stereo, Gilda, Tototomas, Jorge Drexler and Julieta Venegas to name a few. I brought home my mate gourd and managed to squeeze three bags of yerba in my suitcase, so hopefully I’ll be able to keep up my addiction somehow! And of course, I have my memories of a time I’m sure will become even more positive as time passes.
At this point looking back, I’m not sure if my experience has necessarily changed me. Rather, I believe it confirmed a few things.
My own privileges. Buenos Aires, and Argentina as a whole may be liberal, but just as it wasn’t the gay capitol of South America I envisioned, there’s always something underneath the surface. My black and Asian friends in my program had to deal with all kinds of offensive behavior and harassment, sometimes beyond simple curiosity or misunderstanding. It wasn’t enough to ruin their experiences, yet it was something they had to deal with nonetheless. And while as a white gay man I would be considered a minority, I didn’t have to take as much percussion when going on dates with men from dating apps than my female peers, or even walking the streets.
Taking risks are usually worth it. I made great friends in my program, but I found that I got other unique parts out of Buenos Aires by either hanging out with Argentine friends, or going to places by myself. Perhaps as a natural introvert it seemed more logical for me to break off, though there were certainly times in the beginning I didn’t want to seem anti-social. Yet in the end, it’s your experience, and it might be your only time in this place. After all, me taking the initiative was the reason I ended up going to La marcha del Orgullo, one of the highlights of my experience. So I would say to go out of your way- it’ll make your trip so much more worth it.
Un monton de gracias for those who have kept up with me throughout my journey! For those who are going to BA in the future or want to know more, feel reach to reach out in whatever capacity.
Un gran abrazo
The road to home was not easy. I spent my last night in Cork at a house party with my dear Irish friend (who I already miss desperately) and stayed up sitting in my empty room until 5:00am when I was to leave for my bus. After trying and failing to make the 45 minute walk with my suitcase and two backpacks, I called a cab and made the bus just in time. Four hours later, I was going through US customs screening, two hours later I boarded the plane, ten hours later I was in the San Francisco airport. Everything, somehow, felt as though I had never left. I greeted my parents like no time had past, the two-hour drive to my small town was uneventful. Nothing had changed (but my town never changes). I somehow managed to not get jet-lagged and was able to stay conscious through the day. It was the late afternoon, and we prepared dinner with the rest of my family, like every Sunday that I’ve been home since college. Day turned to night: my bed had the same blankets, my shower had the same shampoo, my room was in the haphazard state I left it when I first set off for Ireland. I went to bed and woke up, and it was truly as if I had never left. For the few days I was home, I doubted the “post-abroad slump” that so many people had warned me about. Read More »
As I’m sitting here writing this blog, I’m eating the last of my groceries, sitting in a room that’s in the chaotic state between settled and packed, with my notes from my entire year stacked on either side of my laptop. Tomorrow I have my last two finals (Digital Electronics and Early Irish Spirituality), and eleven hours afterwards, I leave for the bus that takes me to the Dublin airport. Read More »
The first thing that happened when I saw my family is lots of hugs, and a few tears. Coming home wasn’t as hard for me, because my parents actually came over to England a couple weeks before I came home so we could have a family vacation. I cried when I saw my boyfriend too.
It was so very nice to be able to DRIVE. I love my car so much and I realize how much I consider it a part of my independence. My friends who didn’t go were jealous and asked me lots of questions. It was a lot like when I got to England and they all asked me questions about guns and politics. And the pictures. Oh my gosh, the demands for pictures were crazy. Everyone wanted to see the pictures from my time over there. I actually think that school over here requires more effort for me, because there are several assignments, plus tests, and reading.
England was so amazing, and I feel so incredibly lucky to have had the opportunity to spend a significant length of time there. I learned so much and I made some really good friends in the process. Studying abroad will definitely always remain a memorable highlight of my schooling experience. Everything that made me who I am, from being a first generation university student to my incredible family, helped me to have the courage to explore outside my comfort zone in another country. I will always be grateful to the programs and people who helped me be able to participate in such an amazing program and an amazing experience.
But it’s still really good to be home.
Dec 1, 2014
It’s been exactly five months since I embarked on this crazy journey commonly referred to as study abroad. It’s been a little more than a week since I’ve been home and in that time I have managed to unsuccessfully unpack my suitcase (on the contrary, I think the stuff in and around my suitcase has actually multiplied), while simultaneously managing to successfully work my way through a good deal of delicious Thanksgiving leftovers.
Simply put, I am happy to be home. Of course, there are things I miss about Costa Rica, but by the end of my whole adventure I was more than ready to come back home. Four and a half months of growing pains gets to be a little… well, painful. No, no, painful isn’t the right word, maybe overwhelming? Not right either.
Okay, analogy time: It’s like that feeling when you stretch in a way that hurts, like really hurts. But it’s a good hurt. It’s the kind of hurt that extends deep into your muscles and all the stored-up tension you didn’t realize was there. It’s the kind of hurt that lets you know you’re doing something that is ultimately good for your body, something that your body needs. And so you gather up some courage and steel yourself. You push through the smoldering pain, trying your hardest to take your mind away from the pain and instead find peace in that moment. You manage to succeed to some degree and the pain becomes background static to your inner harmony. But even then it’s audible, and somewhere deep inside you can’t help but think ‘When will this be over??’ And when you finally come out of the stretch it’s like a huge wave of water crashing down on the shore; it’s a complete and total release. From the tips of your toes to the roots of your hair, you’ve let go. No more tension, no more effort. You can fully and completely relax. A smile of relief begins to creep onto your face. You’re proud because you made it, you’re happy because your body feels good, and you’re at peace because you’re done. No more effort, you’re home.
Alright, great analogy Hilda, but what’s a concrete description of your experience? I can’t say. I can’t say that I’ve really experienced any reverse culture shock, but if there is anything I’ve realized since coming back it’s that I have no idea how to describe my experience. Either that, or I just don’t want to. When people ask about it, I can tell that what I say isn’t enough for them, or that my answer is unsatisfyingly generic or cliché. But I’m at a true loss for words that might somehow explain what my experience was like. And so, that’s my culture shock. I had four and a half months of incredible experiences and I can’t share them. I just don’t know how. But I think with time I’ll learn how. I think I’m still in the process of letting go; the wave is still crashing down on the shore, and until it’s done there’s just no way I’ll be able to see through to the depths of my experiences and make sense of them.
So, until then, I’ll just wait. Thankfully, school doesn’t start for another month so I’ve got time. I’ve got time to wait and process. And meanwhile I can enjoy my family, friends, and home that I so sorely missed!
Signing off for good.
Sunday, July 8–No puedo creer
I’m not ready. Not ready to be here. Not ready to not wake up in the city. Not ready to hear English. Not ready.
I cried on the plane watching the lights of Buenos Aires disappear behind me. Not bawling, just a few tears. But now that I have arrived in Atlanta 10 hours later, it feels like the last 5 months might have just been a dream. 20 weeks of ups and downs. I don’t like how cheesy it sounds, but studying abroad has really changed me. The things I used to focus on don’t seem as important anymore. I’m not saying I’m not still excited to go shopping when I get home, but I’m more focused on financing my trip/potentially moving back to BsAs than buying a new pair of wedges.
It didn’t really hit me as real until I was waiting in line to board the plane behind a giant group of teenage Americans. (and it still hasn’t really kicked in that going back isn’t definite…yet) But they were probably around 15-16 years old and it seemed like there were 100 of them. all talking, mostly complaining, in English and just being the epitome of obnoxious Americans. The idea of going back to that made me sick to my stomach. I wanted to tell them to calm down and quit complaining, but I didn’t want to talk to them in English and give it away that I’m American too. So instead I walked around their giant group and let two Argentines in front of me as the line finally started moving.
But thank god when the girl who ended up sitting next to me responded to me in Spanish after I asked her “de donde sos?” funny thing was, she’s from New Jersey, but is living in Buenos Aires now. She said she was relieved when I spoke to her in Spanish bc she was afraid I was with the group of kids. She was probably the best plane friend I could have asked for, because, for one, she wasn’t an obnoxious American, and also she had been through the same thing as me a couple of years earlier after she studied abroad in the city. Instead of giving me a weird look as I began to tear up, she gave me tissues. After having met so many (not obnoxious) Americans like her in Buenos Aires, it makes my dream of moving back seem more tangible. We exchanged information and I told her she might be getting a facebook message soon from me freaking out with reverse culture shock.
Sitting in the Atlanta airport, I’m already overwhelmed hearing English everywhere. It’s not as easy to zone out on as Spanish, so it’s kind of giving me a headache. Good I’ve still got some of the good Argentina ibuprofen (I think it’s prescription strength). I just called my mom and left her a message in Spanish bc I don’t wanna do it yet. I don’t want to speak English and be one of them. I was fine speaking English with my plane friend because we knew Spanish was an option. For some reason, that was more comforting. But now, it’s kind of scary because it means I’m here to stay. And I don’t want that right now.
I’ve been excited to come back to the warm summer on the lake since the cold started in BsAs, but now that the time’s finally arrived, the cold is looking that much better. But I can’t lie that I am still really excited to see my friends and family. and to eat a giant salad. with jalapeños. and to not have to spend money every day.
I don’t know what to think right now. It’s all just weird. just got to go day by day, I guess?