All throughout my years as an underclassmen, I heard two words from my upperclassmen friends on a near daily basis. Go abroad.
Taking a semester to travel, try new things, and embrace my usually well hidden adventurous side was always a part of my college plan. I mean that literally; at the beginning of my freshman year, I sat down and created multiple four year plans complete with the possible classes I could take while abroad. After four semesters of waiting and dreaming, I finally arrived in Sydney to study at a Duke approved program last fall. I loved every second of it. Meeting new people (both from Duke and around the world), traveling to new countries, and crossing off most of my bucket list was everything I had ever imagined. However, the one thing I never considered was what came next. Returning to Duke.
As this distant reality began creeping closer I went through several stages of denial, concern, and anticipation. At the forefront, I started almost bouncing up and down with excitement thinking about seeing all my friends again, going to the Carolina game, LDOC, formal, and so many other incredible spring semester traditions. But lurking underneath was the mounting concern that I was no longer capable of cutting it in Duke’s academic setting. I had just spent a semester taking classes Pass/ Fail and focusing much more on the abroad aspect of study abroad, how could I possibly go back and be content in an environment where the word “struggle bus” is the first to come to mind? Beyond academics, I was unprepared to return to a campus where all of the seniors I had befriended would be gone and almost two thousand new people that I didn’t know would be walking around. It would be like freshman year all over again, except this time I wasn’t entering with the naive anticipation that I did two and a half years ago.
Related: Step 1 of Study Abroad: Lower Your Expectations
I never imagined just how much like a freshman I would feel these past few weeks. I got lost going to Div cafe. I forgot which building was Social Psychology and which was Social Sciences. I forgot the gardens shortcut to get to my central campus apartment. But there has also been an overwhelming sense of familiarity. Going to the basement of Bostock for the first time and only just then realizing that I had been lacking a sense of familiarity the entire time I was in Sydney. Walking to class on the first day and running into almost a dozen people I hadn’t seen since May and feeling so warm and happy each time. Going to Burger Bach, which has been a go to restaurant for my friends and I since freshman year, and feeling like no time at all had passed.
What nobody ever tells you about going abroad is how incredible it is when you finally come home.