Returning Home from Studying Abroad

“It’s a funny thing about comin’ home. Looks the same, smells the same, feels the same. You’ll realize what’s changed is you.” — Benjamin Button

I’ve been reflecting a little bit on my study abroad experience. It’s funny how your world changes while you’re abroad and then you come back home and things seem the same, yet different. As soon as you return there is a surge of energy to express and share what you have experienced. But, you soon realize that people are really only interested in portions of what you’re trying to convey. They like to hear about the shocking stories and quirky images you get in the newspaper, but when it comes down to the small subtle images that you truly want to express, their eyes glaze over. Long detailed explanations of an old woman washing her clothes in the river with the sun rising above the karst hills turns into “beautiful people” or “beautiful scenery”. The horror stories of dodging carts and vehicles in hopes of crossing a busy intersection become “lots of traffic”. Soon enough, you’re saying the experience was “awesome” or “surreal”, and ultimately, you stop talking about the experience at all.

It’s a strange feeling, one that feels like the event never really happened at all -a linear path of aging with an unexplained jump in the graph in your early 20s. In no way do I mean to criticize folks back home for a lack of understanding, and it isn’t that home-life is boring. It’s just a realization that living at the furthest lengths of an ever-expanding world forces you to adapt and develop a strength of spirit. And upon returning home, all of a sudden the world has rigid barriers, and we must seek out new ways to grow.

Every once in a while, I will look at an old picture or into a fellow travelers eyes when they are telling a story and it brings me back. The road, ever so patient, ever so kind, calls to me like an old friend waiting to rekindle a friendship.

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