Now that I’m back in Chicago, my mind is swirling with thoughts and feelings about my recent adventure in Belize. When I first arrived at the airport, I was overcome with sadness and nostalgia, realizing that my incredible study abroad experience had ended. I miss the friends I made and the daily routine of snorkeling in the crystal-clear waters. The memories of those vibrant underwater scenes and our camaraderie are still vivid. I deeply miss the beauty and simplicity of life in Belize, and it feels strange to be back in the fast-paced environment of the city.

This trip has undoubtedly changed me. One of the most profound shifts has been my perspective on environmental issues. Witnessing the trash and disease affecting the coral reefs firsthand was eye-opening and deeply saddening. It made me acutely aware of humans’ environmental impact and the urgent need for conservation efforts. Additionally, I realized how much we take for granted in the U.S. The abundance of resources and the conveniences of daily life stand in stark contrast to the Belizean people’s simpler yet content lives. My family and friends have noticed these changes in me, often remarking on my newfound appreciation for the environment and my more mindful approach to consumption and waste. These shifts have influenced my daily life, making me more conscientious about my actions and their impact on the world.

Returning home has also brought its challenges, particularly in the form of reverse culture shock. While many aspects of life in the U.S. are familiar and comforting, there are small, yet significant adjustments I’ve had to make. For instance, I’ve instinctively checked for bugs in the bathroom before using it, a habit I picked up in Belize. I’ve also had to adjust to the luxury of long, warm showers, something I didn’t have the chance to enjoy during my trip.

For future study abroad students, my best advice is to embrace every opportunity that comes your way. Say yes to everything, and never turn down an excursion or experience, as these are chances you may never have again. Before you go, I wish I had known just how transformative the experience would be, in terms of academic learning, personal growth, and worldview. Regarding practical tips, pack light but wisely, focusing on essentials you can easily carry. Be prepared for unexpected situations and stay open to the diverse experiences of studying abroad. Your journey will be unique and unforgettable, as mine was in Belize.