Conclusion of study abroad sparks mixed feelings

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by Aymeric Assemat
A & F Staff Writer
aassemat@unca.edu

As my experience in Asheville comes to an end, I’m wondering more and more how my life is going to be back home. Usually, you experience homesickness when you’re away and you miss your country. To me, it’s the way you feel at home after spending a long time abroad.

I experienced that feeling after backpacking for only two months in Canada a couple years ago. Now, I’m afraid of what it’s going to be like after spending almost a year in Asheville. I would say it was hard to get used to living here at first, but I know it’s going to be harder to readapt to my own country.

Two UNCA students already experienced that feeling. They lived abroad for months and had to go back home at some point. Going abroad created a strong link between them and the visited country. They also get used to a certain way of life that was totally different and returning to the normality of their home country was a bit brutal.

“At first it was really exciting to be home and see everyone, and then it got really sad because I think it was back to more responsibility, and I wasn’t experiencing the newness of everyday anymore,” Kira Leander, a senior literature student who studied in France for six months, said. “I ended up missing speaking French, which I didn’t think I would.”

After studying abroad, Kira Leander became more grateful for the culture and environment around her. Photo by Charlotte Adams
After studying abroad, Kira Leander became more grateful for the culture and environment around her. Photo by Charlotte Adams

Students who have studied abroad said you’re not coming back the same as you left. After such a long time, you have renewed perspectives of your own country, Theodore Kellogg, a senior literature and French student who studied in France, said.

“The hardest thing is reconciling the two cultures and looking at the people and going through the motions of your days through the lens of having a secondary cultural experience,” Kellogg said.

Besides the fact that you miss being abroad and you miss the people you met there, you also feel detached from your own country because of the cultural experiences you just acquired.

“You’re sort of suspended in this middle ground where you feel dissociated from your own culture, but not really part of the culture that you visited, because you’re not native,” Kellogg said.

He also said studying abroad is intellectually fulfilling, but destabilizing; there aren’t just positive aspects. Leander received advice on how to cope with her return from a traveling journalist she met in Barcelona, who said, ‘you gonna experience a lot of weird emotions and you probably gonna be sad or angry but you need to be gentle to yourself.’

“What people might say to you is, ‘how can you feel bad when you just had these amazing experience,’” Leander said. “But what they don’t understand is that you’re trying to calm down from that and trying to settle back into normal life.”

When I experienced those emotions myself after my trip to Canada, I knew it was because of the amazing, high quality of life I had during my trip that I just couldn’t get back home. While discovering a country, everything is new and exciting. When you go back home, everything is comfortable and a bit boring, to be honest.

“You’re experiencing so much newness at the time that your eyes are just wide at all moments, you kinda become like a child, you’re excited about everything,” Leander said.

It seems every little experience that would be insignificant back home, suddenly becomes amazing because it’s happening in a foreign country.

“Like listening to conversations on the tramway, where I was always trying to overhear and be excited when I would understand a joke that one made,” Leander said.

Traveling means getting out of your comfort zone, and that’s like beer, when you taste your first one, you don’t like it, but then you start to really enjoy it and want to try every single one of them. Traveling makes you become addicted to risk, adventure and the unknown.

Theodore Kellogg fell in love with French culture, especially red wine. Photo by Typhaine Le Goff
Theodore Kellogg fell in love with French culture, especially red wine. Photo by Typhaine Le Goff

“Until I went to France, I had never really considered dedicating any part of my life to immersing myself in a culture. Now I’m pretty obsessed with being over there. Even if there is danger in Europe right now, I wanna be there,” Kellogg said. “I feel like I’m connected to it in a way that I would never before.”

Kellogg said everyone should step outside of their comfort zone at some point, and living abroad is a good way to do it. He said it’s necessary because you have a new distance from yourself and you can look at yourself from a third-person point of view.

“Your perspective is more enlightened, you’re sort of outside looking in, and that state of being removed gives you a sort of analytical advantage,” Kellogg said. “And you have a more enriched perspective on life if you live abroad.”

For Leander and Kellogg, going home is hard and can be sad, but in a way, their experience abroad made their life here more interesting. Viewing your country from a new perspective can make it exciting again.

“I learned that you can apply some of that study abroad mentality here and kinda try to have a sense of adventure and newness in the place that you’ve always been,” Leander said.

When I came back from Canada, I realized that my own culture wasn’t perfect and maybe I could apply some of what I learned in my own country. I started to seize more opportunities and to be more spontaneous in my life.

“As much as you identify with your culture, there is a lot of things about it that you don’t see until you have another culture to contrast it with,” Kellogg said. “It makes you more aware about the positive and the negative aspects of your country.”

In a way, going abroad made me realize how little I know about my own country and Europe, as well. It made me want to travel more around the place I live and that feeling seems shared by other travelers.

“Since I got back from study abroad, I’ve traveled more in this past year that I ever had before that,” Leander said. “I made it happen more.”

I know I am going to be sad and it’s going to take me some time to get used to being back home, but I also know that I have the power to make my life more exciting. I just have to make that effort and step out of my comfort zone from time to time.
If I had to remember one new word I learned this year, it would be wanderlust. It’s a bug I first caught in Canada. This bug grew in Asheville and it will never leave me; it will drive an important part of my life.

John Mallow

John Mallow is a senior mass communication student at UNCA and Assistant Social Media Editor of The Blue Banner. He enjoys running, mountain biking, ska music, pizza and beer. He also wrote this bio himself, in the third person. Twitter: @jmallowjr
Instagram: @johnmallow0602

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