When most, myself included, envision a study abroad experience, the picture formed is one of an epic journey, a whirlwind of exotic adventures, and a movie-style score involving lots of string instruments and orchestral percussion to accompany it all.
Sometimes, it’s like that.
Sometimes, it’s not.
My departure from Morocco and journey back to the States was both everything it was supposed to be and everything it wasn’t. More than anything, it was a roller coaster of emotions. Much like an amusement park ride, it caused some of us to cry, some of us to be giddy, and some of us to puke. Regardless of how the journey was, however, we all ended up back where we started – at home.
I was happy to be home; I had missed being able to be involved in the lives of my family and friends. I had missed the independence of being able to drive and the glory of having access to my entire closet, not just the 8 or 9 outfits I had packed to take along back in May.
And let’s face it, as much as I hate Wizard of Oz references, Dorothy was right: there really is no place like home.
I returned home to Kansas expecting a little culture shock, a semi-violent battle with jet lag, and a lot of “How was your trip?!” questions. All of that happened exactly as I thought it would, but there was one element I wasn’t quite expecting.
When people asked how my summer in Africa was, I thought I would be able to tell them all about it; how it felt to be totally lost and linguistically helpless in a foreign country, the amazing feeling of managing to survive despite every missed train or lost bag, or the awe felt when surrounded by a culture so complicated and eerily beautiful.
The answer I ended up giving?
“It was really fun! I had a great time.”
That makes it sound like I’m describing a Justin Bieber concert.
Giving this answer, or one similar, induced in me the same “Really?! You just said that?” feeling I get when I make a complete fool of myself trying to sound smart and fun and witty in front of an attractive boy.
So, obviously, not the result I was looking for.
It’s difficult, I realized, to explain three months of adventure, laughter, and occasional moments of sheer panic to people who weren’t there. I’ve tried, through this blog and through phone calls home, to do it justice. I thought I did all right. Looking back on it now, I’m not so sure.
Besides my inability to give an intelligent answer about how my summer was, the other stumbling block I experienced upon my return is something that I shall blame entirely on physics.
The idea behind inertia is this: objects that are in motion tend to stay in motion, while objects that are at rest tend to stay at rest, unless acted on by a force.
This entire summer, we were all objects in motion; we travelled, we got lost, we tried to speak a language that we were terrible at. We wallowed through culture shock, endured terrifying taxi rides, and somehow, managed to lose our homesickness in a country that we will probably never fully understand.
At the beginning of August, as we returned home and settled back into our normal lives, we suddenly become objects at rest.
I did not realize how much I enjoyed the new challenges of always being mobile. Although living out of a suitcase isn’t that great, the benefits are absolutely worth it. I got so much happiness out of constantly learning, seeing, and surviving. I was not used to a regular schedule, nor did I enjoy my sudden return to being in the same routine all the time.
It’s not that being back in Kansas hasn’t come with its own challenges and adventures; I recently moved into a new apartment, started a new internship, and just delved into a new semester of challenging classes. I’m still meeting new people, running into new mishaps, and getting myself into the usual shenanigans.
However, I can’t help but feel that I’m slowly becoming an object at rest.
Needless to say, I have no plans of sitting back and letting that happen. Thus, I bring to you a new section of this blog, Stateside Sheanniegans. If I can get lost, find trouble, and miraculously wander my way home again in a foreign country, why can’t I do it here, in my own backyard? Adventure, as we’ve been told, is only just outside our own front doorstep.
Some claim that the Midwest is boring, that there is “nothing to do.” I’ve lived here all my life, and have slowly realized that the people who claim it is boring here tend to be boring people.
I’m a lot of things, but I’m not very good at being boring.
As Norwegian explorer Roald Amundsen, the first man to reach the North Pole, once wrote, “adventure is just bad planning.”
Let the bad planning begin. Are you coming along?