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The Aftermath of Studying Abroad

After my entire semester in Belgium, I was really excited to go home and be reunited with my friends and family. Going home, I was expecting everything to be normal, for me to fall perfectly back into place in my old routine, and boy was I wrong.

My first step off the plane I was interrogated about why I went to Belgium, what I did there, and if I traveled anywhere else. Traveling around Europe I had gone through customs a million times but I’ve never been questioned as hard as I was in the American airport. I just remember thinking to myself, “I’m an American citizen, isn’t this supposed to be easier for me?”

Once I finally got out of customs and was surrounded by American accents once again, I had culture shock. Nobody ever warned me about the feelings I’d have coming back to my native country. Not only were the accents different, but the way we greeted each other, our manners, the abundance of fast food restaurants, clothing trends, hell, even the weather was a huge difference. I was way out of my league, and definitely not prepared to handle all of that.

Then there was the jet lag. I landed in Charlotte at about 5 p.m. EST, which was pretty lucky on my part. I then forced myself to stay awake until it was acceptable to go to bed and crashed in the bed that I missed so much while I was away. To my surprise, I woke up at 4:30 a.m. for the next four days in a row. Staying up late enough to get back on track with that kind of morning was really tough too.

Also, throughout all the articles I read about studying abroad, no one ever warned of the weight you’d gain while you were there. I gained 15 pounds in Belgium and was the heaviest I’d ever been in my life. I was almost embarrassed to see my friends because I couldn’t even fit into my clothes that I’d left at home when I went away. I guess the lifestyle change is what did it because now, about eight weeks since I’ve been home, I’ve almost lost the entire 15 pounds. Thank God. What I don’t understand is how Belgians stay so skinny with fries, waffles, and the best beer in the world right at their fingertips.

When I was reunited with my friends for the first time things slowly but surely got better. I have to admit it was weird to hug when you first saw each other rather than kissing on the cheek but I got over that pretty quick.

I never thought I would be homesick for Belgium. I considered my time there more like a vacation rather than a home and I was sorely mistaken – again. I miss the wonderful people I met while I was away, I miss my bike and never having to ride in a car, and I miss the wonderful food and beer I had within walking distance from my flat. Within five months, Belgium turned into a second home for me rather than just a fun vacation I had during my college career. 

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