This post was written by Scott Figatner who is studying abroad in Madrid.
I was taken aback when my program director sent out an email urging students to take a free course.
“If you are interested in getting to know what will happen upon your return to the States and how to affront it, we are invited to participate in this course,” she wrote.
Unsure if she knew something I did not, I expected to be greeted upon my return home with warm hugs from my parents, a cozy room just how I left it and a dog who might have gained some extra pounds.
Now I was being told I would have to “affront” something. Will my car not start? Will I sleep badly while getting reacquainted with my old bed?
Growing curious, I clicked the link to find out more about the course. Its description read: “Psychological aspects to take into account when going back to one’s country.”
Something might happen to me after I land at JFK Airport, and it could jeopardize my psychological stability. When I thought my summer was going to be “ill,” I certainly wasn’t referring to my state of mental health.
I did not take the course.
I am still the same person I was when I left home nearly four months ago and hardly think preparations are necessary. Sure, I have some Spanish clothes and can hold a conversation with a Spaniard. I can dance a bit of flamenco, navigate the Madrid Metro system and make a proper tortilla. I can conduct a tour of the Museo Nacional del Prado, share travel directions to Seville and Córdoba and spew out the history of Spanish literature.
But at the end of the day, I am as American as ever. I still eat eggs in the morning, watch Jon Stewart and drink Coke straight out of the bottle.
If anything, studying abroad has reaffirmed who I am and strengthened my ability to deal with change. I will return home after learning some valuable lessons.
I have learned the value of a dollar is .76 euros.
I have learned that sometimes it is okay to enter a stranger’s house, which might become a home away from home.
I have learned that there is no such thing as a free lunch, but there are definitely free shots.
I have learned that there is nothing wrong with living in your parents’ home until you are 30 or 40 years old. Mom, is it okay if we put the crib in your room?
I have learned to never ever read a book about Spanish culture if it was by someone who is not Spanish.
And I have learned to never limit myself because you can never stop learning.
So even if some dubious homecoming awaits me in the States, I am sure it will be a growing experience. Though I still have my doubts about these so-called psychological aspects, I am confident that I can affront whatever happens.