Studying abroad is like being in an alternate universe where your real life temporarily ceases to exist. Every cliché I had come to expect from Hilary Duff and Amanda Bynes movies as a child turned out to be completely true. I became more adventurous and daring than I'd ever expected that I'd be, met all types of people I'd never encountered before, and even, in the first few days, felt like a completely different person. Anyone who has ever traveled abroad before knows that that feeling only intensifies to the point where you feel like a stranger by the time you have to take the plane ride home.
Going back home is its own weird kind of purgatory: You're not "study abroad you" anymore, but you're not quite "home you" yet either. You are in some indefinable place in between. You are intensely anxious to see your friends and family, but already miss what you are leaving behind. You have so many stories and so much to say but all of the stories seem weirdly unfinished, like you were just yanked too early out of a dream. And these international plane rides, being as long as they are, giving you plenty of time to look back and think all of the following:
I Can't Wait To Claim My Own Shower Again
Staying in a hostel can be one of the most enriching experiences of your life, but it will also most likely be the smelliest. Even you are guilty of it. At some point, the shower line gets longer than the line for the newest iPhone; You often find yourself throwing in the towel before you even get a chance to use it. So yes, every pore in your body is just waiting for that moment you finally turn the knob on a shower that doesn't require flip-flops to use.
Food Will Never Be The Same
What is it with other countries having food that is unfairly and epically way more delicious than ours? Why can't we make on decent croissant to save our lives? There are some desserts I ate in Paris that will haunt me forever.
What Will Be The First Food I Eat When I Get Home??
On the flip side, there are some things here that just can't be beat anywhere else. Namely cupcakes. Maybe other people weren't nearly as consumed by the thought of food as I was on the ride home, but this is who I am, cake crumbs in my bra and all.
Which Stories Are PG-Rated Enough To Tell My Parents?
This is where your editing skills from that brief stint on the school paper come in handy. You start rehearsing all your narratives in your head and replacing "drunk" with "curious" and changing "made out with" to "had a lovely and culturally-enriching conversation with."
Please Don't Ask Me To Unzip My Bag
It's not that there is anything unsafe in there. It's just that I've crammed so much stuff in there that I've accumulated since I arrived in your country that if I tried to fit a bead in, the whole thing would unravel and explode.
Oh My God, Someone Just Spoke English To Me
AND I SPOKE ENGLISH BACK TO THEM. Wow. I forgot I could do that so functionally. Go me.
What Will My New Profile Picture Be?
Alas, as vain as this thought is, it will always be there in the back of your mind. Odds are you took a whole bunch of kick-ass artsy pictures in front of monuments or cityscapes. Now it's just a battle royale to see which one makes the cut.
The Amount Of Laundry I Have Is Unholy
Somewhere in the last week of study abroad, you just give up on cleaning your clothes completely. If you timed it just right, the clothes you are wearing on your person are the last clean ones you have left. And if you didn't...well...sorry to whomever you're sitting next to on the flight.
Wait, I Just Remembered I Was Getting Graded For All Of That
Oh. Right. "Study" abroad. I'm sure I said something intelligent a few times in those lectures. It'll be fine.
I Already Miss These People So Much, My Organs Hurt
You make friends everywhere you go when you study abroad, but it's the friends you make in that core group of students you travel with who become your friends for life. And now that you've been living and breathing and co-existing within arm's reach of each other at all times for so long, the idea of being somewhere without them is like losing a limb.
I Am Maybe A Zombie
The exhaustion starts to set in once that flight finally takes off. For weeks on end, you've been up, up, up like the Energizer bunny of international travel and now you are crashing down like the ordinary human that you are.
Where Will I Go Next?
Even in the face of your complete and utter uselessness, you can't help that feeling in your bones that you need to go on another adventure as soon as possible. It's quite possibly the kind of itch that never goes away. Bon voyage!
Images: Getty Images; Wifflegiff (10)