This is the last and the worst and the hardest. It’s the last because I’m home in the U.S. It’s the worst because I’m not really sure what to say, and it’s the hardest because I feel like I’m in a different world.
It would be impossible to describe the feeling I had (and my friends had, when they left) on my last night in Singapore. I think the word to describe the feeling would be a mixture of other-worldly, strange, surreal, weird, unfamiliar, unique, etc. As I sit in my desk after another day of work at my internship, I struggle to write about my experience. I don’t want to say it feels like it didn’t just happen, but it sort of feels like it didn’t just happen because my life is so different now. I had 2.5 days at home before I started work. The 0.5 is from the fact that I slept until 2 pm after getting home at 2 am from the airport my first night back. The remaining two days were a blur of extreme fatigue mixed with high-energy attempts to spend quality time with my family mixed with frantic errand running to prepare to get to work. I then spent another two days in Madison before starting work. These days were weird. It felt like everything was on pause while I was away and to see people who had also had a new semester, but in places I found familiar, and 4.5 months older, was just strange.
I’m beginning to adjust more rapidly now, but the “dazed” feeling lingers. Perhaps I’m just more “go with the flow” than I used to be, though. They say studying abroad changes you and it really does. I think for the better. It makes you realize who you really are: how do you act in completely new situations? How do you make friends? What do you truly value? What do you, independently, personally, and solely really enjoy? What are you afraid of? What are you not afraid of? Etc.
They also say reverse culture shock is real. I didn’t realize that reverse culture shock is real until reverse culture shock happened to me. In a situation, it was when I sneezed while waiting for my flight from Chicago to Minneapolis. This was one of the most emotional chunks of time I have ever had. I was an hour’s flight away from returning home. I had just checked in with American customs. I had also just landed in the western hemisphere and was suddenly back in my native time zone, with cellular service. I had a strawberry banana smoothie and it was four times the size I wanted/needed it to be. I hadn’t truly slept in almost 48 hours. I sneezed and the people on both sides of me said “bless you”. For some reason, this is when I really began to feel like I was back and like I belonged. Such a simple, “western” custom felt homey and comforting. I felt like I was being looked after (after 36 hours of flight delays, re-routing through Shanghai, waiting in Singapore at 4am, etc., alone, feeling looked after is a welcome feeling). I did not get this feeling when I touched down on U.S. soil, nor when speaking to the American customs officer with the American accent, nor, really, when eating American food. I didn’t get that feeling and I kind of started to worry. Why did I not feel like I belonged? What would it be like when I walked through my door at home?
I felt that feeling when I sneezed. It’s strange, but true. I do feel at home now, but also I know I’m different, so myself + home is a new, unique equation.
On a related note, I know I’m home because it’s springtime and my allergies are terrible.
There is a lot more I could say here. For example, I already miss Indian food and chicken rice and my friends and the heat and my not-dry skin and not-runny nose. I also miss how safe Singapore is, especially when I watch the Chicago news. I miss a lot, but I am also grateful for a lot. I’m grateful to have the ability to call my mom and dad pretty much any time I want because I have cellular reception (usually) and I live in their time zone. This goes for all of my friends and family. I’m grateful to be reunited with a lot of American food (though I am realizing, now, how incredibly unhealthy it is). I still haven’t had Chipotle upon my return, but I anticipate there being fireworks or something of the sort when I take my first bite.
I could also write about how great Singapore and Asia as a whole are, but I’m hoping you can gather that from my previous posts. I could write about how nice it was to be able to reflect through these posts and how strange it will be to not travel somewhere new every other weekend and then be able to share my excitement and experiences with others through this blog. A lot of things will be strange, and are strange, but they are strange because I have seen other things. I truly, honestly do see things differently and I would not take back this new lens I have for the world for anything. I am grateful for this opportunity, for the growth I have accomplished, and am, to mirror how I ended nearly every other post, excited for the experiences to come.