We were told our times abroad would be the best of our lives. And for the lucky ones, it was. I was fortunate enough to have the best roommate, make true and genuine friends early-on in my semester, take interesting classes with passionate teachers, and go on amazing and beautiful trips. I couldn’t have asked for anything more from my four months in Copenhagen, Denmark. Let’s face it, abroad really did ~change me~.
But as I’ve readjusted to life at home with my family and a more regular routine, I can’t help but feel a little out-of-tune. Similar to my transition from high school to college, I find myself torn between the comfortable role of daughter, sister, and team player and the individual freedom I garnered when I was away. Part of me recognizes I should focus on getting back to normal, the way that things were before I left for the semester. And part of me can’t even fathom living the way I lived life before I left for the semester.
So what to do? Surely hanging in the balance between mentalities would leave me nowhere. I’ve found, though I’m nowhere close to mastering this, that it takes a fine balancing job to make the day-by-day work for your new circumstance. Yes you’re back in a familiar environment, but you’re probably not the person you were last time you were there. We need to mix the old and the new, and incorporate what we’ve learned and what we knew into one.
For me, my favorite part of being abroad was the ability to explore and discover new places for myself, without the pressure of telling someone where I was going or having someone accompany me. I would bike to a museum by myself for the afternoon, or lay out by the harbor after class on a sunny day. The lack of obligation to others was liberating and made me feel really independent. This isn’t really something I have the ability to do on a whim back in the States. At home, my parents (rightfully so) want to know what I’m doing and where I’m going, and at school I don’t have the time to wander New Orleans aimlessly looking for something to discover. That doesn’t mean however, that my experiences abroad won’t inspire me to do more of what I love now that I’m home. Wandering around by myself and learning about the city I lived in made me really happy, so it only makes sense to incorporate more of that joy into my regular routine, to connect with my time abroad and the beneficial changes it brought me.
That being said, I also had a ton of free time to spend with my friends, making memories with people I had only know a few months that would undoubtedly last a lifetime. This aspect of my time abroad I know will be easy to replicate at school. I am lucky to have one of my best friends from abroad at school (I just happened to meet her in Copenhagen, even though we had had class together at Tulane!), so I know I’ll have someone to share in reminiscing. But what’s more, I know my free-spirited tendencies to let the day fly by in the company of good people will help my experience at school. Before I left for abroad, I was pretty one-track minded with making good grades in school and working a part-time job; if I had time, I would spend it with friends, but only if it was convenient. Still, I wondered why I was having trouble making best friends, without considering that I was not going out of my way to spend time with my friends. My time in Copenhagen will undoubtedly help me reevaluate my priorities when it comes to spending quality time with people whose company I enjoy. And while it’s more than ok to care about school (especially after the relaxed academic schedule I had abroad) college is a unique opportunity to really get to know people in a short four years. By living with someone, commiserating through a lab science, or seeing their drunk low point at 3 in the morning, we have the ability to form lifelong bonds. I regret not taking this knowledge to heart my first two years of school. But, thankfully, it is never too late to change.
Every day is different. Some days my time overseas seems like a daydream, and I wonder how any of that could have happened. Other times I look around my familiar surroundings of home and struggle with the normality of it all. It’s a give and take, and the adjustment doesn’t come at a set time or all at once. The most important thing to remember is that we should be proud of the way we grew this past semester, but we also can’t lose sight of the reality that is the lives we’ve built here. If we can juggle the two, and incorporate aspects of them both, we’ll be just fine.