What does coming home after one year abroad feel like? Well, there’s a quote from the movie The Curious Case of Benjamin Button that I think sums it up perfectly…
“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.”
Because I chose to do a year program, I came home at exactly the same time of year as when I left. It was like my home was frozen in time while I was away. Yeah there were little changes here and there, but the looks, smells, and feels of what I was used to were all still there.
So what changed? It felt different to be home, but it wasn’t home that was different. It was me. Not so much my looks—as you can see in my before-and-after picture. But more in the way that I see the world. When you study abroad, you are introduced to a new way of living; the longer you’re abroad, the more that new way of living rubs off on you. During my final days in New Zealand, I remember one of my Kiwi friends saying, “You know, if you were here a little longer, I could see you becoming a Kiwi.” Greatest compliment ever! And to me, my friend saying this really shows how much I changed while abroad.
This change is the real beauty of study abroad. Beautiful places are a part of it (I had a check-list of the places I wanted to go). Funny thing though… I never even looked at that list while I was actually in New Zealand. I was too busy living my new lifestyle and going to those places as the opportunities came. Yes, I will always remember those places, but the new life I got to live will have the greatest impact on me. And that was my main goal going into my study abroad experience—to feel what it was like to ‘live’ in a different country. I feel very fortunate to be able to experience that.
But eventually that new lifestyle clashes with the old when you get home… which can feel a bit weird. I got used to seeing new places and meeting new places on a regular basis. Then once I got home, I only saw the old, familiar places and people I’ve known my whole life. Don’t get me wrong, I did miss home while abroad and it was nice catching up with people once I got back. But that transition from such a dynamic lifestyle to a static has taken some time.
So now that I’m back, what’s the next step? I’ve figured it out that the islands of New Zealand make up only 0.05% of Earth’s surface. Therefore, my next step is to get out and explore that other 99.5%! When will that happen? ASAP. Where is the next place I’ll go? Anywhere. All I know is that there’s a whole world to see and, like I said in my first post, many paths to tread.
Thank you for following me on my NZ journey. I hope to see you out there on my next one!