During my study abroad I was always a little excited to return to the United States and to my family and friends, but when the time to leave was actually near, it was more scary and daunting than exciting. Saying goodbye to my new friends and host family was so hard (knowing I would likely not see them again). But nevertheless, I boarded the plane and made my way back to Chicago.

My mom picked me up from the airport, but I was in such a whirlwind that I just went through the motions of getting my bags and leaving the airport. It was weird to me to be speaking to my mom in English, it was weird that I was going “home” to a place I hadn’t been in 4 months. My family all went to go get our Christmas tree and go out to dinner on the night of my return, and I was so happy, but I felt like these people no longer knew me and I didn’t know them. I told stories of my study abroad and couldn’t explain exactly what I saw, did, or felt. They couldn’t understand like my friends abroad could. It was hard.

The days went on and I slowly felt little by little more normal, but it all just felt very semi-permanent, especially because I was coming back to Alabama in just a couple weeks. I realized that if I was going to get through this tough time I was going to have to be honest with my friends and family about how I was really feeling. I sat my mom down and told her how I was so happy to be home, but that something just didn’t feel right and I really needed her help to readjust. I told my friends that I might be acting a little off because I had to do some self-work before I could just go back to my old self.

But what I learned was that I was so stressed and worried about going back to my old self and feeling and acting the same as before that I couldn’t realize that this new person I had become didn’t have to change. The changes I made abroad were part of me and had a place in the US. I didn’t have to come back and be unchanged. In fact, I learned that I wanted those changes I had made abroad to stay with me because they make me who I am. I now look at the world in such a different way and I would never want to go back to how I was before. I had changed, but more importantly I had grown.

So with that, I accepted who I had become, and decided to start another new chapter in my life just by putting one foot in front of the other.