Well Clarion, I’m back.
After 118 days, 10 countries and 30 cities later, I’m back with my friends, classmates and a new outlook on life. It’s hard to believe that the adventure of a lifetime is over. Four months that I planned for, got excited for and prepared for are now just memories, but memories that I’ll cherish forever.
After my program in Rome was over, I went to Marburg, Germany to stay with a family whom my sisters did an exchange with back in high school. The family was welcoming and so sweet. We went to a handball game, saw a volleyball match, drank Gluwein (hot wine) and ate endless amounts of crepes and bratwurst. It was one of the most unique experiences to live with a German family and experience the culture head on, more than you would get if you just stay in a hostel.
Saying goodbye was one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do, not just because I was saying goodbye to a family who I cared very deeply about but also because I was saying goodbye to Europe and my time there. I couldn’t believe how fast the time went. All of a sudden I was sitting on a plane back to the United States. It was a 10-hour flight from Frankfurt, Germany to Charlotte, N.C. and my mind was completely preoccupied with endless thoughts. What was it going to be like getting off the plane? How amazing was it going to be to see my family and friends? What food was I going to eat first?
When I landed in Charlotte I was in sensory overload. I could understand everything everyone was saying; there were bagels, giant burgers and people rushing and in a hurry navigating the airport. There were Southern accents, people hugging and Christmas decorations everywhere. It didn’t feel like Christmas in the slightest, and as we started to board the plane from Charlotte to Pittsburgh, everyone was chatting about going home for the holidays and seeing their families. It was such a heart-warming plane ride.
Just like that I was back in Pittsburgh, with everyone, and everything that was familiar to me. Little things like going to a restaurant and getting ice with your water and endless refills was something I wasn’t used to at all. I was able to do my laundry within hours instead of waiting days for them to dry. I could take my phone off airplane mode, and I could once again eat chips and salsa. It was glorious.
However, those moments, as nice as they were at first started to dwindle. I started thinking of how everything was “back to normal” and how I wasn’t really sure if that’s what I wanted. I love school, I love Clarion and I love my routine. But there is something about traveling, something about going out of your comfort zone, doing something you would never dream about doing that is so exhilarating.
I would recommend studying abroad to everyone I know. When you’re in high school you have your high school friends, and they have the same interests as you. Maybe you’re both on the volleyball team, live in the same area, etc. Then when you go to college you have new friends based on slightly different interests.
You chose Clarion because of the wrestling team, or maybe you make friends from the same major and you have the same interests on what kind of job you want in the future.
Then you study abroad and make new friends based on a whole new outlook. You have travel in common, you want to see new things, experience culture and be spontaneous. You’re meeting people from all over the country and all over the world, who are so different, in what they wear, where they grew up, where they go to school, but when you have that one major thing in common, the rest doesn’t matter. And that was one of the coolest parts about it.
I may not be able to hop on a plane and go back to Europe anytime soon, but the lessons I’ve learned and experiences I had are truly irreplaceable. However, I wouldn’t hate being back in Rome where the weather is sunny and in the ‘60s.