The rumors are true, I am indeed back home in the good ol’ US of A; in Madison in fact, and am fighting off the last of the jetlag and scrubbing off any remaining bits of dirt that are determined to stay on my feet. But for those who are still with me, and I hope at least some of you still are, I have a few last things to share.
First is something I realized as my time in Ghana came to an end. In returning back home after being abroad for a semester’s time there are things that you are told to expect. It is expected that we will have a reaction to being home again. We are supposed to expect the culture shock. Simple things like how you greet someone or proper mealtime etiquette can be tricky at first. It can also be interesting adjusting to different weather, or in my case reacting to pollen and all the other allergens that were not present in Ghana, but hit me like a freight train the minute I set foot on American soil. And what I’ve found to be the hardest part of being back; trying to fall into the rhythm of a completely different day-to-day schedule. However in the defense of most study abroad programs, we were warned. I suppose I was expecting this to happen.
They also warned us that once we get home, we are going to miss Ghana. No matter how ready we were to get back home or even ready to leave Ghana, we are going to miss the people we met and formed relationships with, the places we saw and the campus that we called home for the past five months. Once again they were right. I will admit, in the final days of my stay in Ghana I said that I was ready to go home. I still stick to this statement however, the second I got on the plane, I wanted to go back. It already felt like a different world and I wasn’t ready for the change. Then, with all the excitement and adjustment of being back in America, I couldn’t help but glance down at my watch (still set in Ghana time) and wonder what I would be doing back in Ghana. As I struggled with the cold weather (60 and 70 degree weather), the ‘time is money’ mantra of daily life, and of course the aggressive pollen attacks I mentioned earlier, I began to really miss the heat, the relaxation and the pollen free and mostly fresh air of Ghana.
Now that I have a few weeks of America under my belt, I am happy to report that the transitions are fewer in number and lower in intensity. I no longer bundle up in scarves and sweatshirts in 70 degree weather and I can now control my smiling in the presence of dairy products. It is getting easier to explain the semester in a quick less-than-thirty-second response or even go into detail to explain to those who thought I was crazy to go to Ghana in the first place. I am still overwhelmed by hot showers but I’m working on that one. I still get sad and nostalgic every once in a while thinking about the semester or missing the friends that I made there. However, as I move forward with my life here, I find that the sadness becomes more of a gratitude for the wonderful opportunity I was given.
I can say, with confidence, that this semester has been the most amazing of my life thus far. Those who know me well will say that I tend to reflect on many memories in the same positive light. And in my defense, this time I have done my research. Looking back, this semester has consisted of both lifetime highs as well as lows. BUT every experience was new and exciting and I took something away each time. I can’t exactly say that for any other period in my life, therefore this truly was the most amazing.
Now, at the end of my final entry (hold the tears) I could continue to talk more about myself and what I learned and how I grew and all that but I feel that might not be the best use my or anyone’s time. I learned and I saw and I felt and I can talk about it all I want but hearing about an experience will never be the same as experiencing it. And so my one piece of advice to anyone who cares to hear it is to go out and see the world. Take advantage of every opportunity that comes your way to explore or try something new. Whether it is through study abroad, backpacking through Europe, or even a road trip to Colorado; there is so much out there that we have no idea about or have the wrong idea about and this is our chance to change that. I will share one thing that I learned from my semester in Ghana and that is that I can do anything. We can do anything. We have all the tools and resources we could possibly need. All that’s left is a little push in the right direction. So here I am, pushing you in the right direction. Go. You will not regret it.