Early last week I was looking at my calendar and in disbelief I realized that my last fall semester was starting in less than a month. In even more shock, I began to think about how I left almost a year ago for my semester abroad in Madrid, Spain. I could not, and still cannot, believe that a year has passed by since I embarked on, one of the most life changing, unexpected, (definitely unprepared), journeys of my life.
There is SO much that people are going to tell someone before studying abroad: packing, culture shock, language barriers, homesickness, how to handle school, the best places to travel, whether to live in a homestay or live an apartment, who to live with, how long to go, and so, so much more. And honestly, all of those things can and will be figured out on one’s own while their time abroad. But the thing about studying abroad, that I think is so special, is figuring all of that out on your own is part of the journey and part of appreciating the journey. People can give advice as much as they want, but in the end someone has to figure it out on their own, and it is so much more rewarding that way.
Now that I have rambled about that, the main reason I wanted to write a blog so long after I returned is so that people who are studying abroad, thinking about studying abroad, or just now returning from abroad can have a better understanding of what it is like coming home and how still, not a day goes by that I do not think about my four months in another country and not get chills and get nostalgic. The hardest part: no one understands other than yourself, and the people you go abroad with what you just experienced for such a large chunk of time. I was lucky enough to travel and live with my best friend from high school (but went to a different college) in Madrid. I am so blessed I had the opportunity to travel with someone I still talk to almost everyday, and a lot of time about how much we miss being abroad, because it helps coping with being home, around people who do not understand or have the same appreciation that you have for going through everything you just went through and experiencing everything you just experienced; the amount of different cultures, languages, food, living situations (basically everything I listed in the beginning).
When first arriving to your new country and going through orientation, they mention “reverse culture shock” but, for me, that was the only time I really ever heard that expression and wiped it away because the thought of going home when I had just arrived was not relevant in the slightest. Reverse culture shock, in its simplest definition, is returning home after a long period of time in a different country. Let me tell you, first hand, reverse culture shock is real. And, again, something no one can really prepare you for, and hits some people harder than others. It hit me hard and still hits me hard even today.
I get anxiety about never being able to experience something like I did for those four months. The good, the bad, the scary, and the unknown. I think about how I will never live in my small apartment with my Spanish family on the 7th floor in downtown Madrid. I will never be able to travel the way I did to 8 different countries while being in school like I did. I will never be exposed to so many different, new, people in such a short period of time. I will never live in the unknown like I did for those four months. But, that being said I have learned that that is okay.
My experience would not be as beneficial and such a learning experience if I did get to do those things again. I would not appreciate it in the same way as I do. I would not get the chills everytime I think about those months abroad – not knowing what I was doing until it was time to leave. I take the life skills I learned abroad everywhere I go and in everything I do. I know I will be a better employee, daughter, student etc. because of my time abroad. I learned life lessons that one cannot teach you in the comfort of your own culture and home. I made friends I still keep in touch with almost everyday and that I value so much. And though a year has almost past, I still think about it everyday and how changed I am for the better, and I am sure 10 or even 20 years down the road, my feelings will only have grown for the appreciation of my time abroad.
Madison Ropp is a senior at the University of Missouri-Kansas City studying Communications. Madison spent the fall semester abroad at the University of Antonio de Nebrejia with the ISA Madrid, Spain program.
Student blog entries posted to the Roos Abroad Blog may not reflect the opinions and recommendations of UMKC Study Abroad and International Academic Programs. The blog is intended to give students a forum for free expression of thoughts and experiences abroad in a respectful space.