Reverse Culture Shock

7:26 PM

Hall of Mirrors, Palace of Versailles. October 2015. Photo taken by me.
Hey, guys. It's been a while, I know.

Truth is, I've been dealing with a lot since I returned from Rome in December. Never in a million years did I expect to experience such a roller coaster of emotions after arriving back to my home country. But, let me tell you, returning "home" felt nothing like the warm embrace of familiarity that I expected it to be. Home just didn't feel like home.

I didn't think this feeling was reverse culture shock at first, until I started noticing just how much thoughts and memories of Rome interfered in my daily life. Old adventures just didn't feel like adventures anymore when compared to the European escapades and cultural exposure I had just experienced mere days, weeks, months before. Food didn't taste as good. And, worst of all, I found my newfound creativity and passion for photography dwindling in the face of the assignments and commitments I had back on home campus.

It was like I had just spent three months discovering my true self, only to have to shove that self into a box, tape it up, and shove it into my closet like a time capsule I would reopen in 10 years time. I found Me, but home wasn't ready for Me.

Home only knew pre-Rome Taylor, pre-travel expert (passing amateur), the girl who barely even knew herself and was just trying to make it through this crazy thing we call life.

St. Peter's Basilica, Rome. November 2015. Photo taken by me.

And that's the thing. While abroad, life was more than just "making it through life," more than "just trying to get through another day." Every day presented me with the opportunity to do something amazing: adventure lay at my fingertips.

I know what you might be thinking: why shouldn't every day, whether spent abroad or at home, present me with the opportunity to do something amazing? Point taken, I understand. It's just that, in an unfamiliar country with an unfamiliar culture, adventure was so much easier to come by. Even frustrating mistakes, like getting off at the wrong metro stop and winding up in a totally unfamiliar neighborhood, were enough to call "adventures."

Returning to school amplified any reminiscence, stress, and post-study abroad sadness I already had developed. I guess the strangest aspect of the whole re-entering process was the fact that life had gone on while I was abroad.

Overseas, it almost felt like I pushed a button and paused everything at home and at school. But after returning to main campus, I realized the falsehood of this naive concept. Life had gone on, friendships had changed, and no one could really relate to the life-changing adventure I had just experienced.

Tour of the the island of Capri, Italy. September 2015. Photo taken by me.

I felt like a brat when I recounted stories of clubbing until six in the morning in Barcelona, sitting under the twinkling Eiffel Tower at night, and popping prosecco on a motorboat in Capri. Believe me, I still feel like a brat while typing it right now.

So eventually, when people asked me how study abroad was, I would just say "good" and offer the brightest smile I could muster up while destroying any urge to supplement that statement with my grand archive of crazy stories. Because, despite my genuine intentions, I realized how I sounded to other people. They couldn't relate, and would never relate no matter how many times I attempted to sum up my experience.

I stopped talking about it. Aside from with my fellow Romies (study abroad squad), that is. And now I feel all those memories, those priceless slivers of elation and freedom, slipping out of my mind.

Study abroad will always be a part of me. But that part of me will have to silence itself to a dull whisper instead of the carefree roar I learned to adopt during the best three months of my life.
Me making one last wish at the Trevi Fountain before departing for the States the next morning. December 2015. Photo taken by a kind friend.
Wanderlust is now in my blood.

Side note: I encourage anyone and everyone to study abroad if they are given the opportunity. The emotional struggles I've experienced since returning to the States are nothing in comparison to the millions of memories, experiences, and adventures awaiting you in a foreign country. Learning more about the world is always a good idea.

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