I was living la dolce vita in Rome when December 9th came around and it was time to go home. My friends and I had a huge, authentic Italian dinner, some house vino, danced to Euro pop a little bit and then called it a night -my abroad experience was over. I was sad and definitely weirded out, but also excited; I was going back to my beloved (and modern and efficient!) New York, my non European-twin-sized bed, food from all kinds of cuisines, and of course, my friends and family.
Despite my having looked forward to returning to the United States, adjusting to home was not quite as seamless as expected. I walked around Manhattan and, naturally, heard people speaking English-but, instead of reacting normally, my instinct was to go up to passersby and ask where they were from and why they were traveling around Europe _. When I heard two Italian girls chatting in a store, I got excited. I spoke Italian to waiters at Italian restaurants and happily translated the menu fully to my friend’s little sister. I even _(seriously) craved pizza, which I thought I’d be sick of after having eaten it every single day!
Coming back to Penn was the hardest adjustment to make. I felt like I had missed out on a semester of parties, events, certain classes, the new freshmen, and other drama. My brother, who was beginning his 2nd semester of freshman year upon my return, said to me: “It’s so weird that you’re coming to my school with me.” His school? I had only been gone four months, and it felt like even less because of how much fun I had been having. It was my school! Wasn’t it?
The first night back my three best girlfriends (one of whom had been in London, the other two in Madrid) and I sat at home with a serious case of social anxiety. We did not want to see many people and even ordered in-we felt bizarre walking around campus to restaurants. We spent the night looking at pictures of our abroad experiences and sharing stories. Were we being weird? We took comfort knowing that we were all feeling the same apprehension, but we were still nervous for the days ahead-would we be able to feel normal in college again? It was particularly odd for me, as I had grown quite frustrated with the Italian life of leisure; I thought I would strongly embrace the States’ super-efficiency. However, I found myself really missing Rome and its culture and lifestyle.
The next night we all forced ourselves to go out, and ended up having a fabulous time. We realized that most of our best friends (our fellow juniors) had been abroad too, and many of them with us! Everyone was feeling nervous, and because of this we were able to cast our anxiety aside and just be happy to see each other again. The seniors and sophomores welcomed us back happily-they had certainly noticed our absence. Looking back over the last three weeks, I feel like my friends and I have adjusted completely.
In a way, we adjusted too much; sometimes it feels like we were never really gone at all. To think that we lived in Europe for a whole semester is a pretty unbelievable thing, and I am so proud of myself for doing it. I am definitely happy to be back, and I do now feel totally natural at school, but I will never forget my amazing experience. I really recommend going abroad to everyone-though it is somewhat of a disruption of “normal” life, studying abroad entails so many once-in-a-lifetime opportunities that the extra effort is definitely worth it!