Don't get me wrong, after my freshman year studying abroad, I felt the need to go back home with my family, friends, and my country's culture, but it wasn't until the end of the spring semester that I wanted to go home so badly. I had these huge expectations of how I will feel coming back home after a year. How different I will see my friends, family, and city. I knew I had changed from head to toes, and I was nervous about how my parents were gonna see me. The last weeks of the spring semester went fast, volleyball practices were over, and the only thing I was missing was my finals. I was excited to travel, I had so many stories and memories to share with my family and friends that I couldn't wait. I brought them gifts from my college, to show them that I haven't forgotten them at all.
The flight was long, I had to 2 connections to get to Colombia and the airports were packed. Finally, when my flight was ready to take off, I realized that my first year of college was over. It was a year ago when I decided to study abroad to pursue my dreams of playing volleyball at a higher level and to double major in psychology and chemistry to become a neuroscientist. I was so focused on my way back to Colombia, that I had forgotten how far I had accomplished.
When I arrived to Colombia, it was dark, I couldn't see the stars with all the lights coming from the city. The flight attendance was telling us the current temperature, 12 degrees Celsius, and the time, 11:30 pm. I was back in the mixed weather of Bogota, where the mornings are sunny, the afternoons are rainy, and the nights are cold. After I picked my suitcases, I was ready to meet my family. As I was getting closer to the exit door, I could see my parents holding a huge poster with my name and my cousins carrying balloons that said, "Welcome back". I run to give my parents a huge hug, I was finally home. All my fears, insecurities, and anxiety left my body. I felt secure and safe. We stayed all night talking about my first year in the states and how crazy it has been.
The next weeks went pretty fast, I met with my closest high school friends, we went to our favorite restaurants, to the most fabulous clubs and we even decided to take a trip to the beach. Lowkey, I felt I was living in a bubble, everything was almost as I imagined. Being again with my friends felt as we never left apart as if we were in high school all over again. But bubbles do not last forever. A month after, most of my friends started traveling outside the country or to other cities. They were hanging out with their group of friends, and even when I tried to be part of their plans, I felt odd. It wasn't my life anymore. Bogota felt distant from what I remembered it. I didn't find going to the mall as exciting as I did before, people were in a rush all the time, the traffic was a nightmare that I didn't want to drive around, and everyone seemed busy.
One afternoon I decided to take my parents out for dinner to one of my favorite places, where local artists and singers gather around in a small market and sell their last jewelry collections or play their last songs. As we walked by the market, I felt calm. I could appreciate the time I was spending with my parents. I could see how my dad was growing old, how his mustache went from half black and white to fully white. How his hair was still black without any white hair popping out, but his face was looking more tired than I remembered. On the other side, my mom looked radiant, her hair was longer than last time I saw her, she started wearing more colorful clothing that made her look happier and younger. When we sat at the restaurant, I could notice how my parents were still madly in love. They looked as happy and proud as the time they left me in the airport when I was leaving for the U.S. I didn't feel a rush to tell them all about my freshman year as I felt before. We talked about my dad's job and how demanding it had become. My mom mentioned how she is still helping my high school with their social events and how she likes to hang out with her college friends for a cup of coffee once a week. And then it hit me, I didn't realize how their lives had changed after I left. Lately, I was so focused on how people were going to see me, that I forgot how different I was going to see them. We finished eating and decided to go for a walk before driving home.
Home was not going back to my house or Bogota, it was going back to the people I love and I'm close with. The next two months I spent it with my family and close friends, we went hiking, I decided to get matching tattoos with my cousins, and just enjoy everyone's company. Beckley, West Virginia was becoming my home too, I met the most wonderful people from all over the world. I had the best volleyball team I could ever ask for and even if it was a small town, it felt cozy and warm. I understood that coming back to Colombia with my family, was a way to recharged batteries for the next challenges I was going to face in college. When the moment came again, I packed my suitcase with new goals and good wishes, I was prepared for my sophomore year. And out of everything I felt calm to go back to my new home.
Coming home after studying abroad
Being an international student always creates the expectation of coming back to their country and find their home completely unrecognizable. People usually focus on feeling homesick, but actually the reaction of being home can create more shock, as nothing has stayed the same.