“America is my country and Paris is my hometown.” -Gertrude Stein
Dorthy had it right. There’s no place like home. When I first arrived at the airport in the US, still hours and a second flight from home, I felt immense relief. All the little stresses of preparing to speak to cashiers in French were gone. Suddenly I was on my own turf again. I feel relaxed and being with my friends and family again is wonderful. Sometimes the best thing about travelling is knowing how nice it is to be home.
Another benefit to travelling is the personal development. This trip taught me a lot about myself. I found the limits of my comfort and stretched by abilities to interact with strangers. I haven’t been home long enough for anyone to notice any real changes in me, except perhaps getting up really early due to some lingering jet lag. I think I will face the next school year with new maturity and a new appreciation for everything that the international students at UA are gong through. It takes great courage to be in a completely new place for all of college. I know for me even five weeks was a challenge. I learned to appreciate being surrounded by people who understand my background and my culture. While I think it is extremely important to experience other cultures, it is nice to come back home.
One of the biggest differences I’ve noticed in my short time back in the US is breakfast. I didn’t really realize how much I’d missed having a big meal in the morning. There are a lot of little things like this that make me enjoy being home. My house has air-conditioning. I can talk to people on the street in English.
To future study abroad students: Know your limits. It’s okay to call home or find some familiar food. I wish that before I went I’d known to keep my expectations reasonable. France was a completely amazing experience, but it was a real place with real people and it could never be perfect. As for packing, you cannot pack too light. However, don’t forget comfortable shoes. Whatever country you visit will be more fun if your feet don’t hurt.