Coming Home from Studying Abroad

I never knew how difficult it would be to readjust to a place that had always been my home. After moving to Paris for six months, I grew into another person and shed my skin, so to speak. I became fluent (finally!) in another language, and I developed confidence that I can conquer any obstacle. I did everything in the study abroad process alone, from flying to a city I had never even visited alone to get my visa, to jumping through hoops for over a semester. I learned how to maneuver through the French education, metro, and etiquette system. All of the skills I learned, from being able to read a map with the swiftness of a swashbuckling pirate to perfecting pronunciations , became suddenly irrelevant upon my return. I no longer had friends to speak French with and nobody wanted to go with me for espresso at 9 pm. I missed my Paris friends, and giving bisous to strangers. Paris, despite all of its difficulties, had stolen my heart. When I lived there, I could travel anywhere in Europe at the drop of a hat, and believe me, I did. I spent January through June living my best life, eating tartes aux framboises and visiting every art museum I could find. 

Coming back to New Mexico was a bit of a shock to my system. I had been told over and over that reverse culture shock was a real problem but I could not wrap my mind around the idea that my home would seem foreign. It was the little things at first, like the elevators and customer service that threw me off. However, I recently returned to campus and I feel like a freshman again. The student body looks different, yet somehow exactly the same. My friends have changed and grown too, and I have sometimes worried that they have outgrown me. Or maybe, I outgrew them. Either way, I find myself feeling a bit more lonely than I remember, and I long to go back to Paris. The hard truth at the core of that longing is that when I do go back, Paris will have changed, too. You cannot step in the same river twice, as the saying goes.

School has been a rocky transition as well. Studying abroad in France comes with some major perks, including no homework! French professors view homework as childish, and that it is below college students. When I got my first assignment of this semester, I just gawked at the paper. One of the scariest parts of studying abroad is not knowing anybody, but it can also be nice to be shrouded in anonymity. I feel like I always know a hundred people when I go out at school, which is nice at times but there have been days that it gets overwhelming. I also had substantially less responsibility in Paris, so there is an adjustment period to juggling work, school, an internship, and the clubs I run. 

When I was in Paris, I wrote a little journal blurb called self indulgence. Here’s a snippet: “I spend a lot of time at the Louvre. I draw in my spare time. Now that I have time, I’m working on both writing and drawing. It’s self indulgent and honestly so freeing.” I had so much free time and artistic energy, so I think my goal for the semester is recreating that type of free time for myself in the few minutes I have to myself a day.