1. “How was your semester?”
If you had a dollar for every time you’ve been asked this, the ridiculous tuition looming over your head like a black cloud would magically be paid in full. The nuns asked, How do you solve a problem like Maria? I ask, how do you explain in words to someone how an experience, that can only be fully realized through the five senses, changed you? You can try, but words seem inadequate, so you just answer, “Good!”.
2. Newfound Awkwardness
You’ve always been awkward, but now you have reached a whole new level after returning to civilization. The shift from twenty-something close friends to three thousand sets of eyes is quite monstrous and a tad overwhelming. Suddenly you find yourself doing strange pointing gestures every time you see an acquaintance while making bird-like squawks for casual conversation. Every night you hope and pray that your heightened awkwardness will subside, or at least that people will somehow find it endearing.
3. Campus Crush
It just so happens that during your first trolley ride since returning from distant lands, your previous campus crush generously offers you a seat next to them. Of course you’ve never spoken because campus crushes are mythological creatures, and like unicorns, are meant to be admired from a distance. You discretely pull up the sleeve of your jacket and rustle your Nalgene around, hoping that they will notice your orange rope bracelet or study abroad sticker...but they don’t. So, you just sigh in awe and watch them gracefully exit the trolley.
4. Chapel Struggles
You’ve forgotten how to chapel. For the past four months your cohort has been casually holding chapel in the middle of Tuolumne Meadows or on top of Lion’s Head Mountain. Upon entering the zoo that is Felix Event Center, you frantically try to find your token friend and end up forgetting to grab a chapel card. Once you find said friend and obtain said card and all seems well with the world, you realize you’ve written your high school ID into the boxes.
5. Personal BeliefsThis aspect of returning is probably the most challenging and uncomfortable one. Whether your personal faith was shaken and rattled to the core or encouraged and strengthened, it was changed in some way during your semester abroad. You were taught to question all things and hold fast to the good, but now you tiptoe around discussions on faith because your newfound beliefs and views seem like insoluble oil in the APU pool.