I was traveling every weekend during my study abroad trip. Every five days I got to see new things, meet new people, and experience a new culture. And in between these trips within the trip, I always came back to Prague. It was amazing returning to Prague after my first weekend away. I was still exploring the city, still learning to navigate; but coming back after three days in another city, there was a wonderful familiarity to the streets of Prague. The language, intimidating as it may be, was not entirely foreign. The street signs were recognizable. I could go to my favorite café for lunch again.
When we returned from the second weekend trip, a particularly emotional three days in Poland, I quite unexpectedly said to myself, “It’s good to be home.” It was strange; I had talked to other students on the trip about “back home,” meaning our homes in the United States. But suddenly “back home” had a new meaning: back in Prague.
By the third weekend away, coming back to Prague was like returning from a vacation: you had a wonderful time, but you are ready to get back home. It gave a sweet sense of relief to see the river, the castle, the Chinese restaurant down the street from our dorm.
I love my home in the States. Nothing could ever replace it in my heart. But Prague “adopted” me. I have room in my heart for a second home. I have been back in the States for almost two weeks now, and I still think back to Prague as my other home. Homecoming is an adjustment. My heart does not live in just one place any more.
Coming home after falling in love with another city did something else to my heart, too. The abstract home I had been missing suddenly came into far greater detail than I had ever noticed before. Falling in love with the little things about Prague made me aware of all the little things in my own hometown that I love but had never taken the time to really notice before.
Study abroad did not just teach me about another country and its culture. It taught me about myself and about my home. It opened my eyes to the way a place is so much more than just the place itself or even the people. It is the place and the people and also the little details, the every day life, that make it truly special and captivating.