“Now, a year after returning, study abroad has not only been a memorable experience but integrated itself into my everyday life.”
The strong smell of coffee.
A bite of pizza.
These brief experiences within everyday life still send me back to my experience abroad in Rome, Italy, even a year after returning. The smiling faces of long distance friends and the sound of the Vatican bells still float in my mind.
It is interesting to see how my experience abroad is still so present in my life today.
What many lack to share is their experience after returning from abroad. It is often overpowered by their experiences that had occurred during their time overseas. Study abroad not only effects your life when you are in that country, but after you arrive home, as well. Now, a year after returning, my study abroad experiences have not only been felt in the form of memories but they have integrated themselves into my everyday life. I find myself using skills I learned abroad in my professional and personal life today. I am here to share with you my experiences upon arrival back to the United States, within my first year of returning.
First Months After Returning
I remember that when I arrived back, I felt a sudden rush of emotions. Everyone was excited to see me and hear about my experiences. I was excited to share all that I had experienced with them all. Things had changed since I had left. Little things such as a new store in town or my mother’s new car. Nothing big, but it did feel a little funny. As time passed, I had a gleaming smile on my face as I told stories of my long distance friends or how I explored new places every weekend. These memories still ran rapid through my mind and I seemed like I was the shiny new toy back and ready to share my experience in the United States with all who were willing to listen.
Feeling Lost: Finding Myself Again
After the first couple of months had gone and passed since my arrival back to the United States, things began to crash a little for me. People were not so interested in my experience, but it was still so alive in my mind. Around this time, the honeymoon stage was wearing off and my friends and family saw me just as I was before. The problem was that I felt different. I knew I wasn’t the same person that stepped onto that plane to go abroad many months ago. I often felt misunderstood and didn’t know why.
Around this time, I felt my study abroad experiences and everyday life at home begin to integrate. I applied and became a study abroad ambassador for AIFS and my campus. Being a study abroad ambassador was a healthy way for me to cope with the emotions that I was feeling. This position meant that I was able to share my experiences abroad and help inspire others to do the same. I was also able to connect with other ambassadors who were feeling the same way as I had; lost and misunderstood. This position helped me find myself again. I was able to take these experiences and integrate them into activities which occurred in my everyday life by tabling on my campus or holding one on one meetings to help others study abroad. I no longer had to keep my experiences locked away in a closet, but instead I was able to showcase them to the world in a useful way.
A Year After Returning
Today I look at my experiences that I’ve had and see them more as skills that I have acquired. The skills that I learned during those few short months abroad showcase themselves quite often in my everyday life. Today, I am currently student teaching with a 4th grade class. The last time I was in a classroom with students, multiple times a week was in Rome, Italy. I was able to teach English in two third grade classes when abroad.
On the first day of student teaching, I watched as all the friendly faces of my new students walked through the classroom doors. During all this commotion, I heard something interesting. I heard a brief sentence of Italian words coming from a woman behind me. Although I did not understand what they had said, my memories resurfaced and I was taken back to the streets of Rome. As I turned around, I saw a little boy with his mother.
“Ciao,” I said to my new student.
The mother and the boy’s face lit up, “You speak Italian?!”
“Un po (a little)”, I responded.
This is when I felt an immediate connection to my new student. As time has passed over the last month, I have helped him with English and used the skills that I once applied in that Italian classroom. This one particular case has proved to me that study abroad can affect you even a year after returning.
Now, as my current students smile at me, I cannot help but to hear the laughter of my Italian students in Rome. The distant memories of them still burn in my mind. The joy I felt in that Italian classroom inspires me to create that same atmosphere in a classroom of my own someday. Although details of memories tend to fade, the way you felt will always be present. Your experience will continue to stay alive and become integrated into your everyday life, just as mine had.