Well, I am back in the US now, and my journey is officially over. This has been the best experience of my life. I have returned a more confident person and a little less shy. This year has had many ups and downs, from making some awesome friends to school and beyond. The bottom line is that I enjoyed myself. There are no regrets. If I could do it all over again I would do it in a heartbeat.
Saying goodbye was probably the worst and hardest part about study abroad. I have made many friends overseas, from Peru and internationally. After a week of goodbye parties, emotions were running high and I found myself in complete denial. I could not believe that I would be leaving, that I’d most likely not see this place in a very long time. It freaked me out knowing I would no longer see my host family, speak in Spanish, and overall just not be in my new home. For me, it was a lot easier to adopt to Peru. Adopting back to the US is a little different. Sometimes it’s as if nothing has changed. The big things are just as I left it (my family is still here, the town looks almost the same, my friends are just as incredible as before etc.) but some of the smaller, usually unnoticeable things are completely different. There are little things that I do that I am accustomed to do in Peru. Throwing toilet paper in the toilet still throws me off, I always search for the light switch where it had been in my room back in Peru, and washing dishes individually instead of in one big water-filled sink. These little things that I never would think twice about before now remain as little reminders of my life back in my second home…that is until they fade away.
Above all, the worst thing has been leaving my host family. Luckily, they have Facebook so I get to see their updates and photos to keep me updated on their life. I get to talk to them every once in a while and I’ve already chatted with Anali, my friend and the maid of the house, over Skype. Thank God for technology that can keep us connected. My host parents come and visit Wisconsin every once in a while (like every other year), so I am hoping that we can reunite in Madison next year! I really was treated like another daughter and I miss them a lot.
Now don’t get me wrong, I am excited to be home. It was just leaving and the whole packing process that I didn’t want to do while I was still in Lima. But I have enjoyed being back with my family and friends. I am trying not to talk too much about my experience, because most people don’t care too much. So, I tell a story here and there, but usually only if people ask. I don’t want to be obnoxious about it. It’s just hard sometimes because the only recent stories I’ve got are from Peru. So it’s been a little interesting to monitor myself in talking about my experiences with others.
I have already planned a dinner with a friend and her family in which I will prepare a Peruvian dish. I may be out of Peru but Peru will never leave me! I’m excited to try out making some food here, since we don’t have the main ingredient (aji amarillo) but I will try to be a little creative. What I’ve learned is that in returning back to the US, it is best to focus on what is going on in the moment and remembering that there is a lot to look forward to instead of remembering the past. Of course, my experiences will never be forgotten but I can’t let my longing to return to Peru stop me from enjoying what I’ve got right in front of me!