5 Things I Underestimated About Coming Home After Studying Abroad

I am a New England girl at heart. In my small Massachusetts hometown, there are eight Dunkin Donuts. If you bring up the Patriots around my friends and/or family, at least one person will go absolutely berserk. My vacations usually consist of going up to Maine for a weekend by the lake.

I have always considered myself a homebody to my beloved region — and for a while, I was okay with that. However, after I was accepted to my top school on the premise that I would spend my first semester halfway across the world, my whole perspective switched; my mind transitioned to that of a global traveler. I had the experience of a lifetime while studying abroad in Italy, and learned so much about myself that I never would have been able to realize any other way. However, as my semester came to a close, there were a lot of things about home for which I was prepared for — and whole lot more that I underestimated.

1. The cold

If you know anything about New England, you know about the brutality of winter. As a child, winter was one of my favorite times of year: I would relish the snow days as they came and make slushies with snow and Coca Cola. As I grew up, I still admired the aesthetic of winter yet grew less and less fond of the cold. I thought that mid-December, when I would be returning home, would not be as cold as, say, early February. However, when I stepped outside of Logan Airport for the first time, I was hit by a wave of the most frigid air I had felt in a long time — a nice welcome home, right?

2. How delicious home-cooked meals are

Don’t get me wrong: Italian food is just as good as they say it is, especially the pasta. I can honestly say that, over the course of four months, I never had an unenjoyable meal. Despite all of the tasty treats I had, there were times when all I wanted was one of my dad’s famous hamburgers or a cup of my mom’s homemade clam chowder (is it possible to get more “New England” than that?). When I got home, and was able to eat these foods again, I was overwhelmed by how good they tasted and how much I had missed them. It was definitely one of those #reunited moments.

3. How weird it is to see friends and family again

Although my parents and sister were able to visit me during Thanksgiving break, I was shocked when I came face to face with my close friends and family when I got home. For the past four months, I had talked to all of them through a screen. I was used to seeing their faces and hearing their voices, but recognized that this was different from being physically present with them. The first time I saw my family all together on Christmas Eve was a huge moment for me. I was able to hug everyone and tell them how much I missed them face-to-face — something I had missed more than I realized before.

4. The feeling of sleeping in my own bed

I have to say that not being able to sleep in my bed (a.k.a. my sanctuary) for a whole semester was somewhat daunting to me. My bed is easily the comfiest place in the world, and I did basically everything – from homework to ukulele jam sessions – in it. So, after sleeping in a semi-uncomfortable bed in Italy, I was more than excited to experience the coziness of my loyal twin bed. When I finally got through the jet lag and was able to sleep comfortably, my previous expectations were exceeded and I was the most comfortable I had ever been in my life. Moral of the story? Never underestimate the power of your bed – it will never let you down.

5. My personal growth

I knew from the moment I accepted my admission into Northeastern that my whole life was going to change. Before going abroad, I had never ventured out of my comfort zone. We’re talking about a girl who was too afraid to ask for a straw at restaurants. By the end of the semester, I knew that I had become more independent and adventurous than I was — but I did not fully recognize the impact of this until I got home. I was more comfortable talking to people and speaking my mind, and I had more initiative to get things done and educate myself. Without this development, I would be the same girl as I was in high school — and although I liked her, she wasn’t who I wanted to be when I grew up. And although some parts of her stayed the same, a lot about her changed for the better. And I’m happy it did.

I am unsure whether or not my college years will lead me towards studying abroad again. If they do, however, I know I have my past experience to help along the way — and I’ll be ready for it.