I miss Florence: the liveliness of the streets, walking home after a delicious meal of pasta, and the beautiful Italian language. I miss my friends and my city. But it’s also nice to be back in the U.S.
I have severe mixed feelings about being home. I stepped off the plane into the waiting arms of my family, in my well-known Boston Logan Airport, and it didn’t feel as odd as I expected. It felt normal; it felt like home. On the drive back to my house, I saw familiar signs, businesses, and streets, completely unchanged. The next couple of days my friends and family asked how it felt to be home. The best way I could describe it was that my life here in the U.S. simply paused for three months. Yet, for some reason, to this day, it still feels as though Florence is my reality, and the U.S. is a dream that I will soon wake up from.
It reminds me of exactly how I felt at the beginning of my study abroad experience, but vise versa. I guess that is how I would best explain culture shock. Believe it or not, it happens when coming back home just as often as when moving to another country for three months. So I anticipate that these feelings will wash over as I fall into my normal routine here at home.
There is a post-abroad “blues” many students worry about as they return to reality, and this is the advice I have for them. It is important to cherish the memories you have made abroad and the relationships you have formed, but that is in the past. You can’t wish on a star and re-do the entire experience; you can’t even fly back to Florence and reform the exact memories you have already made. Instead, think about the amazing times you have ahead of you. Think of how you’ve changed as a person and how you are going to go forward with new thoughts, hopes, and expectations. Be happy with the new friends you’ve made who you can make new memories with. Remember the past, but don’t live in it. Don’t be sad about what is over, but be grateful that you had the opportunity to live it and look forward to the future. “Nothing golden can stay,” as Ponyboy so gracefully put it in The Outsiders.
Don’t get me wrong; I miss Florence and my friends and even my teachers at Richmond. Every time I pass a picture on Facebook from these past three months, or throw on my leather jacket I bought at a market, I remember my life in Florence and how near to perfect it was. But these thoughts of enjoying the present is all that I have to remind myself that I don’t want this time to end in sadness. Allow tears of longing for a place and for people to become tears of happiness over that city that was once yours. The best part about living in the 21st century is that your new friends are only a text message away. I have about four different group chats with the people I have met. Some chats are with two people, some with twenty, and there still has yet a day to pass without one person talking in them.
The biggest lesson I learned while being abroad is how to live in the moment and to be happy with what you have in the present. I learned how to push aside worries of the future or reminiscing on the past. You can never truly live life happy and content if you aren’t appreciating what you have in front of you. So, as I am sitting on my couch at home and not exploring the streets of a foreign city, I try and think how wonderful it feels to be on my couch that is so familiar to me and why it’s making me happy at that time.
Learn about your options to study abroad in Florence, like Ginette, in addition to study abroad destinations around the world with AIFS.