Today marks one and a half months since I landed back home in the USA.
So, you may be thinking to yourself something along the lines of “REGINA WHERE HAVE YOU BEEN?!?”. To answer that quite simply and lacking a lot of detail, a whole heck of a lot of places! My last month abroad was spent traveling and since I braced the 7 1/2 hour flight across the Atlantic, I’ve been finding my footing back in the real world.
The real world.
A funny concept, huh?
So what is this hypothetical, often begrudged “real world”? Well so far it’s been a lot of early mornings, running to trains, walking dogs, and trying to cope with the fact that my life is so completely different from what it was six months ago. From before I stepped on a plane to leave everything I knew with knew passport, overstuffed suitcases, and an iPhone stocked with feel-good music to keep my anxiety and impending homesickness at bay. From before I got stuck on a train in the middle of nowhere Norway for 16 hours, experienced my friend losing his passport, or pretending you weren’t scared to death of pickpockets. From before I discovered that I can actually hike up mountains, saw art that I dreamed about for years, and befriended some of the most amazing people that I have ever met over good beer and even better laughs.
Oddly enough, the hardest part about studying abroad has been coming home.
Now I should probably start explaining that with a disclaimer- I am so, so happy to be home. I missed my friends, family, school, and dogs more than I could possibly even begin to say. But while I was missing them, they missed a lot of me. Quite simply, yet very un-simply, I am not the same person that I was when I left for London. I’ve discovered this appetite for life and adventure that balanced itself with an acceptance of myself and others that has left me, still a Type A, arts obsessed, soon to be college senior realizing that there is more to me than there is to me.
Parts of me that existed deep down inside, that I kept hidden away in metaphorical boxes, were unlocked and drawn out into the open for the first time. I learned that I don’t feel awkward going to museums or restaurants alone, that I can fly to different countries by myself, how to say “hello”, “thank you”, and “bathroom” in at least seven different languages, that people will reach out to you when you least expect it (and need it the most), and most importantly that I can take on anything I want to and I needn’t be afraid. What is going to happen is going to happen, so live your life to its fullest capacity and never settle.
I miss that.
I miss this journey of self and world discovery.
I’ve settled into summer, my days passing by as I stare at excel spreadsheets in an office with no windows. No more Monday night trips to the “Big Tesco”, weekend journeys to other countries, or Blue Corner cappuccinos. It’s back to life, back to what we my mom and I like to call “reality”, but possibly for the first time, I’m in touch with me, with my reality.
I wasn’t kidding- No windows!
I think calling this post “So What Happens When Study Abroad is Over?” is a lie. Study abroad really never ends because the person that you become because of it never ceases to exist, whether for good or for bad. The reality of it all, my new reality, is that I’ve had some of the best months of my life and the person I’ve become because of studying abroad is finally the person I think I wanted to start to become. A person that is alive, attune, brave, willing, compromising, fearless with a healthy dose of caution, and most importantly, ready for so, so much more.
Yes, I’m not living my dream anymore, but a quote I live by is “Dreams don’t work unless you do”, and I have a whole list of them to get through!