Anyone studying in college, and especially anyone interested in studying in a different country, has heard the phrase “find yourself abroad.” It’s such an intriguing concept: to go somewhere completely new and find yourself. It’s not just the excitement of seeing new places and meeting new people, it’s the thrill of discovering parts of yourself that you didn’t even know existed, like your love of Korean pancakes or your fear of dark ocean waters. Having gone abroad, I can attest to this, you do discover new and interesting things about yourself. However, I can also attest to the struggles of re-entry. I was so excited about the new self I had discovered, I was barely aware that I was losing who I was entirely.Studying abroad gave me a sense of confidence that I had never experienced before. I was experiencing a new level of independence, seeing astounding places, and making amazing friends. Meeting people was easy; they heard my accent and immediately we had something to talk about. To them I was interesting, exotic even. Fast forward to my semester back in the United States: the scenery is less remarkable, road trips and adventures are few and far between, and I’m a typical native in a sea of Americans. Life was ordinary again, and I had gotten so used to the extraordinary.
I found myself constantly flipping through study abroad pictures, day-dreaming of past adventures, and planning road trips that would never happen. To make matters worse, friends I had left behind had new routines I no longer fit into, new friends I studied abroad with had old friends they were re-connecting with, and all the while I was trying to remember how college actually worked. After months of excitement, I forgot who I was before I left. I was stuck in a semester that was over and I didn’t know how to get back.
To be totally honest, I’m still trying to find my way home. Some weeks are better than others and sometimes I catch glimpses of the person I used to be. It feels like a present each time I remember a little something about myself, like how much I enjoy the sounds of Boston while also despising its cold winters. In all the excitement of studying abroad, and with all the new things I learned about myself, I let the rest of who I am get lost in the commotion. Studying abroad was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made, but it’s shown how difficult it can be to hold onto the person you are was while also embracing the person you’re becoming. I don’t think I’ll ever completely find the person I was, but I’ll find pieces. And hopefully I can take those pieces, along with the new, and find myself at home.