My Abroad Diaries: Cultural Appreciation

I’ve always had people to rely on, that I am able to go to at home whether it be my family, my best friends, my boyfriend, even my doctors or teachers. I rely on familiarity and the normalcy of the environment I’ve grown up with. I don’t think I’ve ever had to go through anything on my own before, even if I thought I was, I’ve always had my go-to's. After living your whole life in one spot and one town, you know it and you know it well. That’s a comfort that becomes so natural you don’t even know it’s there. You stop realizing all the things you have at your direct disposal. The easy access and knowledge of your own little world is something I’ve been learning to never take for granted again. 

I used to complain sometimes about how I was living the saying,”same shit, different day.” My town is small, and it gets boring. My school is pretty small, and I could always find something wrong with it (even if I love it!). I decided to go out on a limb and go abroad to live in Athens, Greece for around four months. I was essentially going with people I had never been extremely close to and some people I had never met before. Even knowing this, going abroad was something I was going to do whether I had a friend with me or not. 

 

Writing this right now, I have been away from home for 62 days and I have 41 to go. I’ve traveled to the most beautiful, famous, islands and towns of Greece. I’m exploring Germany, Italy, Paris, Switzerland, etc. I am beyond blessed and each trip brings me a kind of excitement and happiness I’ve never really experienced before. Traveling is eye-opening. The culture shock I felt, and sometimes still feel when I can’t understand what people around me are saying and I’m trying to navigate my way reading foreign signs is sometimes very overwhelming! You have to have this constant awareness that I don’t always have at home. Tourists can definitely be targets as I’ve seen my friends get their wallets and phones stolen. There’s so many little things you don’t think about going abroad. Did you know you can’t flush toilet paper here? Let me tell ya, that took a while to get used to. 

Although there are many differences, I like embracing the culture around me and learning other’s customs and just their everyday lifestyle. I’m learning the most basic words as I try to communicate with the locals here, and even trying out new styles they have that we don’t at home. Plus, there’s some things I absolutely love like no taxes, cheap alcohol that is legal for me to drink, AMAZING food, nice bars and clubs, the warm weather, and of course ~ the views ~. I've also made the most incredible friends that I hope are going to last me a lifetime. 

This week is probably the first week I’ve felt some serious homesickness. All the things I talked about in the beginning are coming back to me. I’ve become aware of the gratifying life I have in America, especially in Amesbury and at Endicott. I miss the comfort of my family being so close to me and having all the people I love available to me at the same time I would need them without having to wait 7 more hours until they’re finally awake. I miss my mom's cooking and advice, I miss my dad taking me out to lunch on Friday afternoons in Beverly or going to the shooting range, I miss dancing and sleepovers and driving my parents nuts with my sister. I miss playing presidents with my neighbors and eating chinese food or superbeefs. I miss the smallest moments at the most random times. I will never again take for granted my teachers and the education provided to me at Endicott either. 

Being abroad might be the greatest experience of my life and the biggest blessing I could have been granted. I’ve never been so independent,  responsible for myself, or proud of myself for this decision. I know now that I can do things on my own. I know there is more outside of Amesbury and Beverly. But, damn, I miss home. I believe this experience isn’t only learning and embracing other cultures, but it’s also about appreciating and cherishing my own. Europe, you are beautiful. America though - you will always be my home, my comfort, and my safety.