The Month Marker

As of today, June 6th 2012, I have exactly one month before I fly home to California. I am only now beginning to realize what this mean; for 11 months I have been living in the safety of the study abroad bubble where the gravity of my situation hasn’t been put in stark comparison with others back in the states, and therefore, hasn’t been something I think of on a day-to-day basis. As the day approaches I’m beginning to try to grasp what will happen once I’m back. How can I treat the thought of home with same sense of excitement and anticipation that I had before coming abroad when there’s such a memory-enforced foundation back across the pond? My fear is that my expectation of home will be slightly and uncomfortably altered, resulting in a serve case of reverse culture shock with a side of harsh reality. Yet, I think these uncertainties are a result of an inner panic that I will no longer have so many travel resources at my fingertips. I’ve seen a lot this year– more than my fair share. Some people become grounded and engrossed in their own communities, never to explore another country, county, or culture; however, if that’s what makes them happy and they’re enjoying their lives, who am I to judge? Yet, for me personally, this year has taught me so much about the world, humanity, and myself. I learned that the kindness of a stranger is more valuable than gold. I’ve learned that embracing and appreciating differences can help bridge vast culture gaps together. I’ve been humbled countless times. I’ve come to the realization that the more I see and the more people I talk to—the less I know. I’ve learned how to sustain a non-romanticized and realistic sense of adventure (one’s that not based on an Indiana Jones movie), which has turned out to be more applicable and subtle in most situations. I’ve learned how to balance an acknowledgement of my situation with modesty; especially when talking to my Chinese roommate who is sacrificing a lot to be in the same city as me (1 Euro= 8 Chinese Yuan Renminbi). I’ve learned that the places that are the hardest to get to are usually the most rewarding. Despite everything I’ve learned now I’m struggling with an identity crisis: I do not feel American (I never really did anyways). Neither do I feel Californian, especially after being away for so long. I do not feel Spanish, as not one Spaniard has been able to place me–they know that I’m a foreigner, just not from where. By spending so much time away from what was considered my “comfort zone” a new sense of security has evolved itself into a new breed of self-reliance that, I’m hoping, will help me as I adapt to my old life while remembering and applying all that I’ve experienced this year. As this last month passes I am being constantly reminded that I need to take advantage of my little time left and prepare myself for my next adventure into the old, and into the new.

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