This morning, I moved back on campus after a long seven months of not being at school. I woke up with a sense of nervousness, an anxiety that I had trouble placing. Why did I feel this way, returning to a place I love so much, my second home? What purpose did these feelings hold?
Something I realized both during my time abroad and since I have returned is how much I've changed. Call me an "abroad changed me" basic college student, but there is so much truth to that statement.
In my semester abroad, I lived in two different countries, visited another nine, took courses entirely in German, lived with locals, and so much more. In my semester abroad, I juggled my relationships, both in the US and abroad. I was completely immersed where I was, yet could always remember that I had people worth coming home to.
As someone who tends to focus a lot on others, my time in Austria and Germany was a time for me to make my own schedule entirely, doing what I wanted always. This does not mean that I had a disregard for those around me, simply that it was a period in which I took control over my life more than ever before.
When people ask me how my experience was, I can easily tell them about the places I visited and sites I saw. What is harder to pinpoint are the ways in which I grew, the moments that I saw shifts come into view.
Before I flew back to New York, one of my friends wrote me a letter. In it is a line that has stuck with me:
You do not have to fit in the box you used to fit in at home.
These words pinpoint my anxiety this morning, which stemmed from the realization that because of my experiences over the past five months, I may not "fit in the same box" I used to here at Villanova, and that's okay.
I may come back and find myself not connecting with the same people I used to. This is not a reflection of me regressing or being unsuccessful, but a sign that there are other people, other connections, waiting to be made. I may come back and find myself not wanting to be involved in the same things. That is also okay.
When it comes down to it, I am not the same person I was when I boarded my flight to Vienna on August 1st. Heck, I'm not the same person I was yesterday.
Every day brings opportunity for changes, opportunity for growth, and realizing that these changes and growth may redefine one's identity in a certain setting is important.
A few close friends of mine have commented on a shift in me since returning home, a certain openness that I now possess. This is something that I hope will guide me as I navigate Villanova's campus again.
I'm going to be honest, it is pretty daunting to be here. I have no idea what to expect out of the coming semester, because as much as I am writing about how I have changed in my semester abroad, I know the people who remained on campus have changed, too. That is all natural and all part of life.
Yet it is important to shift this uncertainty, this idea of being part of a different "box," into a lens of hopefulness: hopefulness for the future, hopefulness for what is to come.
For those of you who know me, you know the walls of my room are a place to express who I am. This year, hanging over my bed, I have a Morgan Harper Nichol's graphic to the quote "you are where you are meant to be," surrounded by four sunsets, two from Villanova, and two from my time abroad (one in Vienna, Austria and one in Marburg, Germany).
In this way, I hope to remind myself that I am always on my path, always right where I am meant to be, and through the sunsets, remind myself that endings are beautiful and a sign of what's to come.
I don't know what this semester will hold and it will certainly be different than all the rest, but I am choosing to enter it with a hopefulness that I am, that we are, continually exactly who and where we are meant to be.