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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.

Ivy Saltsman

Northeastern '23

Ivy is a third-year Journalism and Media and Screen Studies major from Eastern Massachusetts. She spent her first semester of college abroad in Rome, Italy and loves music, theatre and meeting new people. Follow her on Instagram @ivysaltsman!
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