I’ve been back in the U.S. for a little over a week now. At first, being home felt surreal in a way that I couldn’t quite explain right when people asked me. Everything felt familiar yet strange at the same time. I felt like I was stuck in some kind of limbo between two worlds, still processing the sudden jolt of change. I suppose some people would call that culture shock or, in my case, reverse culture shock. I guess I just thought that culture shock would be more…shocking. It does feel strange to talk to my friends in Chile with the sudden realization that I am now thousands of miles away from them. But, overall, it doesn’t feel shocking to be home, it is and has always been my home. Being home has been quite the opposite of shocking to be honest. In a lot of ways, it’s already starting to feel like I never left. And that is an even more unsettling sensation. How could it be that everything that happened in the past six months could so suddenly start to fade into the background as I return to my life before studying abroad? It’s strange to think that it could really be that easy. It’s strange to think that I don’t feel strange at all.
But, still, I know that there are a lot of things about my time living in Chile that will stay with me for the rest of my life. The way that I look at situations in my life has changed forever and, without a doubt, for the better. I hope to continue to be a more positive person, someone who has a better understanding of the importance to make the most of each day and each interaction with others. I took the time to strengthen that side of me in Chile and it made me a much happier, more fulfilled person. I hope, more than anything, that I never lose sight of that as I return to my normal routine at Butler.
The truth is, I think I have been struggling to write this post all week because what I really feel is filled to the brim with paradoxes. I feel the same but different, comfortable but out of place. Everything is familiar but foreign. I am changed yet constant. The back and forth makes me restless, nerves unsettled. But thankfully, being back on campus has been a great distraction from my jumbled emotions about leaving Chile. I don’t think that I ever particularly noticed or appreciated how lusciously green the summers in Indianapolis were before now. It really caught my attention the first day that I was here because of the stark contrast that it poses to Valparaiso’s arid flora. It feels great to be back, soaking up the summertime, after the past few months of winter weather in Chile.
I have, at times, found it a bit hard to talk to other people about studying abroad. I never know how to answer their questions in a way that I feel like truly captures the experiences that I want to share with them. People tend to ask me very broad questions because they are unsure of what to ask, such as “what was your favorite part?” Which, obviously, is impossible to answer because it requires somehow funneling down such a complex six months of my life into one, neatly wrapped “favorite part.” It sounds cliché to say that it was all my favorite. But when I think back on my time in Chile, the memories don’t come to me in categories like the best, the worst, or the craziest, they come to me in a blur of faces and places that leaves me full of emotions but at a loss for words. Which hasn’t helped much with my storytelling ability.
Unpacking from Chile took longer than I had expected, perhaps because I felt like once I had fully unpacked I would have to let go of my time there in some small, seemingly insignificant way. The third day that I was home, I spent hours just sitting in the middle of my childhood bedroom amongst the chaos of all of my clothes and belongings and just looked at it all. But eventually I realized that I was being silly and began to pack for school. A few days before I left Chile when I was feeling sad about leaving everything behind, my Chilean mom told me, “Hay una temporada para todo,” which means there is a season for everything. The weight of what she said to me didn’t fully hit me until I was back home, but since then it has helped me more than she probably knows. As I discussed in my last blog post, there is a season for all things in life. So, although my season in Chile has passed, I know there will come a time soon that I will be able to go back to that beautiful county whose people welcomed me with open arms and make even more indescribable memories.