When You Feel More Lost at Home Than You Did While Away
It has been a little over a year since I returned from my semester abroad in Scotland and there are still times when the longing to return creeps into my consciousness. Sometimes, I intentionally try to remember those blissful moments I lived while abroad and other times, the smallest connection, like a rainy Ohio morning, will pull me back to that distant place.
What do you do when ‘home’ feels new and strange?
How do you handle reverse culture-shock?
How do you keep those memories alive?
When I first came home, after four months of traveling Europe and living at the base of the Scottish Highlands, I hated it. Home was too loud. Home was too chaotic. Home contained the weight of structure and expectation.
I longed for the freedom and weightlessness of starting over in a foreign land. I wanted to be planning trips instead of planning for the future. I wanted to spend my money on plane tickets and not dental school applications.
I wanted to hike through fields of heather while the rain drizzled on my face and the wind whipped my hair. I wanted to skip class to take flights to Germany and Ireland. I had become addicted to the feeling of takeoff: the excitement that bubbles up inside you as the plane gains speed and then your stomach drops as the plane takes flight.
It seemed like nothing had changed at home, but I had changed so much. I didn’t feel like this new me belonged in my old life. It was hard to share my adventure stories and when people asked, “How was your semester?”, “Great!” didn’t even seem to come close to covering all the people I had met or the adventures I had experienced.
I was lost and helpless in my own country and in my own home.
Now, over a year later, I have started to readjust to my life here, but there are still parts of my travels that I hold close to me and will not let my old life take away. I have realized that these two parts of my life can co-exist and the lessons I learned while abroad were meant to help me when I returned home.
I have become more flexible from my travels. I have learned the importance of vulnerability and real true conversation.
I speak my mind and share my opinions, but I let others do the same. I look to share the opinions and experiences of others and try to look at everything from multiple perspectives.
Waiting for a dental school decision is not as fun as waiting for a delayed flight, but the same skills are involved. Having your ‘life plan’ rerouted isn’t the same as misreading a map in a foreign country, but being flexible in both instances will help you make it through.
When I feel lost, when real life gets too much, I just remember that my study abroad experiences were more than memories and I use those lessons to help me through the difficult times.