So, here I am in the Miami Airport, on my way back to the United States. I have a seven hour layover and I’ve decided to take a break from accidentally speaking to everyone in Spanish (it’s happened multiple times now) to blog. In these last weeks, everyone asked me how it felt to be going home so soon. “I don’t know,” I’d say. “No no, I mean how do you feel about going home?” they’d repeat, thinking I hadn’t understood the question. “I don’t know,” I’d insist, and maybe give them a "it feels really weird" to satisfy them. But I say it because it’s the truth. I didn’t really know how I felt about going home, and I still don’t, even though I’ve now said all my goodbyes and I’m in the country. If you ask any exchange student they’ll agree with me. Going home is the hardest part of an exchange year. You have so many conflicting feelings… being excited to see your friends and family, but dreading saying goodbye to your other friends and families. You might be thinking, "but Irene, how can this be any harder than the beginning of an exchange year? You were leaving things behind and looking forward to different things then, too." And I’ll admit that that’s true, but it’s much more complicated now. The two sides of my emotions – sad and excited – were much simpler then. Now those feelings have more layers. My sadness at leaving Ecuador is much deeper, because there’s the possibility that I will never, ever see the people I said goodbye to again. And even if I do, it will never be the same. I will probably never have an experience like this exchange year again. My excitement to be going home is more difficult, too. Sometimes I feel almost guilty to be excited about going home. I get worried, thinking if I'm excited to go home, does that mean I did my exchange wrong? Shouldn't I want to stay in Ecuador forever and never go back? And of course when I really think about it, that's silly. You can't apply a words like "right" or "wrong" to an entire year. But thoughts like that still put a damper on my excitement. Also, I've heard a lot about reverse culture shock - when people come back from exchange and have a hard time re-adapting to home life - so I have nervousness loaded on top of the excitement about going home.
So, yeah. Maybe I don't really know how I feel to go home. But I know I loved this year. And I know I've changed for the better during it, and I look forward to what adventures come my way next.
Since I'm at home now, I don't think I'll post anymore. So I want to leave you all with this, something a wrote about my year.
What is an exchange student?
An exchange student is someone who can become best friends with someone in five minutes flat.
An exchange student is someone who has no idea what the hell they’re eating, but they know they love it.
An exchange student is someone who knows the true meaning of the word “lonely.”
But also of the word “friend.”
And the word “gratitude.”
An exchange student knows how to enjoy the little things.
And how to really enjoy the big things.
An exchange student understands how little they really know about themselves.
But they really understand themselves better than anyone else does.
An exchange student is a learner.
They're someone extremely brave, and maybe a little crazy.