Going abroad is so much easier than coming back. Once you’ve gone, you can never go back to being the person you were before.
You become as much of a foreigner in your own home as you were abroad. You’ll find yourself reabsorbing everything that was once familiar as if it was brand new.
I forgot what it was like to be at home, to be at UNC, to take a car everywhere, to know my way around, to know the language.
I forgot how to dress myself in the ways I used to. My tastes had changed. My body had changed. My appetite had changed. Everything was different enough to make coming home another learning experience; something I was not prepared for at all.
My priorities shifted. It’s not that I now value completely different things, I just changed the value that I had once apportioned to those aspects of my life. The things that came to matter the most made themselves known to me in their own ways on their own time, but my outlook on life has nonetheless been altered forever.
For me, it was my relationships with people that came under the spotlight most prominently. From the second I hopped off the plane in Madrid, I realized that this experience was going to be amazing, but there was always a feeling of longing for someone to share it with.
My friends were thousands of miles away, living in a completely different time zone. My family was too. A bad day couldn’t be complained about, a joke couldn’t be told, and my experiences couldn’t be fully shared or comprehended without having to factor in a 6 hour time difference and a whole world of culture differences. It was at once isolating and freeing.
I’ll never forget sitting across from Ponte Vecchio, eating pizza waiting for the sun to set, and looking over at my best friend and realizing that this moment wouldn’t be what it was if I didn’t have her to share it with.
I learned that no matter how amazing my time abroad was, it would’ve been nothing if it weren’t for all of the people that were a part of it. I could’ve been abroad for a whole year, but if I had been alone the whole time, would the experience still have the same weight?
In the most non-cliché way, studying abroad (or living abroad or long term traveling or whatever you want to call it), changes your life.
Life suddenly becomes split between two realities, and you have to find a way to marriage the two so you can function without a broken heart. You can read all of the advice in the world on how to prepare for going abroad, but nothing can prepare you for coming back.
I found peace through changing my own behaviors and habits. I don’t eat all of the same things, wear all of the same things, or even want all of the same things I did before. I find little ways every day to keep the habits I developed abroad alive and well at home because by doing so I don’t feel so far away.
It’s impossible to be in two places at once, but those of us who have a piece of our heart on the other side of the world are the ones who must learn how to cope with that reality the most. After all, there’s no place like home. Or is there?
Until someone figures out the answer, Jacq will be at it again letting life haphazardly take her from one corner of the earth to other.