The Epitome of Bittersweet

I left for home bright and early on Friday, June 7th. I had a 20-hour travel day ahead of me, but my excitement for heading home got me out of bed quickly. Not only was I exhausted from my lack of sleep, but I was emotionally drained from saying goodbye to my friends the night before. I have felt bittersweet feelings before, but never this strong. The couple weeks leading up to saying goodbye were filled with mood swings of pure excitement for going home one minute, to total sadness that I had to say goodbye to my new friends another minute.

Saying goodbye to my friends was extremely hard. Especially because I don’t know when I’m going to see them again. When my family came to visit in March, I asked them to pick up postcards from Madison so that I could write nice notes on the back for my friends. I gave one to each of my friends before I left, and they absolutely loved it. Everyone enjoyed looking at all the different pictures of Madison. Plus, the note on the back was a nice way for me to share with them how much they added to my great semester. We all hung out playing games, listening to music, and talking until around 2 a.m. I was reminded that I had to get up in 3 hours for my flight, so I gave in to sleep and decided to head up to my room. Prior to saying goodbye, I didn’t think I was going to cry. I knew that I would miss them, but I thought I was going to be able to contain my tears. But, then the time came to say goodbye, and as I hugged each person, it sunk in just how much I loved my new friends and how much I would miss them. The more people I hugged, the more tears came out. By the end of my goodbyes, I was ugly crying and could hardly talk. What are the odds that we all ended up doing the same study abroad program and all lived in the same dorm hall? I’m not sure how I got so lucky that we all became friends, but I’m happy that it worked out so well.

Once I got back to my room and stopped crying, my mood swung to excitement that I was going to see my family back home in less than 24 hours. I felt like a little kid on Christmas morning. My 8-hour flight back into the states was the longest 8 hours of my life. At one point in the flight I thought that I’d only have a couple hours left, but when I looked at the time, I realized that I still had 5 hours left. After I survived the long flight, I had one more flight until I made it to see my family. I kept myself occupied with a movie on the flight, but then when we landed, we of course had to taxi on the runway for 20 minutes. Those 20 minutes felt longer than the 8-hour flight I had earlier that morning. I walked through the airport so quickly to get to the baggage claim where I knew my family was waiting. Everyone else near me at the airport looked exhausted and unhappy, and I’m sure I looked the same, until I saw my family. I could feel my smile get so big and I started waving at them. I gave them all the biggest hug and it felt like home.

Studying abroad was such a life changing experience for the better. I know that I will have great stories and incredible memories for the rest of my life. But, there is something to be said about the comfort and warm feeling of being home and around people you’ve known for a long time. It feels nice to be back in the “real world”. I look forward to the day that I can travel again and meet up with my new friends in their countries. I have continuously said throughout this semester that I’m so lucky to have people in my life that make it so hard to say goodbye and so easy to say hello—both with my trip to Leeds and my trip from Leeds.