Yes, I’m back, in America and on this blog. I’ve finally concluded what seemed like the fastest semester of my college career. It was filled with many ups and downs, especially as I’ve been having to readjust to living on my campus and dealing with school. For me, reverse culture shock was more gradual than immediate. Of course, in the Atlanta airport on my way back home in December, I was completely surprised by the fact that the announcements were in English and Spanish (“What is that? That’s not Italian!”) the overpriced sandwiches that weren’t worth my money, and the busyness of everyone around me. Gone were the days of casually strolling to the gate and standing in a mob of a line. Now I had to rush to get in line with everyone else, and I’m not even entirely sure why there was a rush. It was a surreal experience being back in my house that I remembered but felt like a dream.
Christmas was lovely being with my family, but when I spent time with friends from home and heard all about their experiences in the fall, I was speechless. I couldn’t relate to anything they were talking about (grades, professors, classes, campus life). I felt I couldn’t contribute a thing to the conversation because it would feel like I was bragging about my adventures. After texting some of my friends from Italy, I realized we all had the same issue with not being able to fully express what our semester was like to our friends and family. Once I was back on campus, although there were way more aspects of reverse culture shock, I was finally able to swap study abroad stories with my friends who had also gone abroad. Since a good portion of the junior class goes abroad in the fall, I didn’t feel as awkward in groups of friends. We’d all been through an experience that the others could at least partially understand.
While readapting to dhall food (bleghhh), dorm life, work schedules, class schedules, reading pages upon pages a night, spending long hours in classrooms, making time for my friends and boyfriend, and many many other things, I almost forced myself to work harder and make myself busier. I hoped this would be a distraction so that I wouldn’t have to think so much about Italy, my friends I made there, and all of my nostalgia. Because of that busyness I was able to accomplish a lot of things like applying to internships, getting a job at the study abroad office, lining up volunteer opportunities for the summer, taking pictures for the campus newspaper, winning a study abroad photo contest, becoming the president of the Italian club for next year, and getting some fantastic grades. However, with all of that awesome stuff, I still couldn’t push Perugia out of my mind.
This is not to say I didn’t have a good spring semester. Not only did I get a lot of things accomplished, but I made some pretty good memories here in Richmond. I was able to go camping in the Shenandoah, have a nice Italian dinner with Tom for Valentine’s Day which actually tasted truly Italian, celebrate my junior status at Ring Dance (a tradition at my school), attend a women’s conference at my church with Jess who came to visit for a weekend (!!), run a 10k on Monument Avenue, and explore the shops and restaurants in the city of Richmond. I’ve made some new friends, had some good heart-to-hearts with old friends, and continue to ask my friends from Umbra about their lives through facebook. The conveniences of technology is such a wonderful thing when you’ve got such awesome people to keep in touch with from all over the US (and in Peru, I’m looking at you Alea!).
I really can’t tell you the best way to deal with nostalgia. It comes in all forms, from wanting that authentic Italian food, to missing going to Tandem and talking with Italians, to hearing English and wishing everyone could speak Italian instead, to waking up in the morning and just feeling disillusioned with living on a college campus. All I can say is that I’ve tried everything and I will still just keep missing Perugia and my semester abroad. Certain things help though, like exploring thrift stores with friends, finding new shows to watch that are addicting (aka Once Upon a Time), learning interesting things in class, and talking with my fellow Italian minors/majors who also studied in Italy.
I only hope that my summer will help me to focus on moments in the present rather than comparing everything to my time abroad. I’ll be working two jobs on campus (making bank!) as well as volunteering at a refugee resettlement center and at the Maymont estate, and hopefully I’ll throw in some weekend adventures in there as well. Overall, I hope that this blog will now help me to relax and process things better than I did this past semester so that I can enjoy time spent with my family and friends without the ache of wishing I could study abroad again. No worries though, because now I want to return to Italia more than ever and definitely will in the future. 🙂