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Students note cultural differences, adjust to life back at the College

Megan Loney | Friday, January 16, 2009

Saint Mary’s students are settling into a routine after a three-week break; however, some of these students are making a bigger adjustment than others after spending a semester – or two – in Ireland, Spain or Italy.

Students said they are noticing several major cultural differences, one of which is the difference in lifestyle pace.

Julie Laemmle enjoyed the laid-back atmosphere she experienced in Ireland.

“Americans are always in a race with the clock, going from one thing to the next, and trying to squeeze more into their days than possible,” said Laemmle. “The Irish are so relaxed about everything and life was very enjoyable.”

The pace was not the only disparity in lifestyle that affected Laemmle, who found it difficult to fit back into her structured life back in the United States.

“It was really hard to readjust when I first got home,” said Laemmle. “I’d been living in an apartment with four Irish students while abroad.

“We were totally on our own in the apartments, so you could come and go as you pleased or make as much noise as you wanted and no one minded. I feel like my independence has been taken away since moving back to America because I do have to follow so many rules now,” she said.

Junior Afton Caterina may be having the hardest time with the adjustment. She recently returned from two semesters abroad, one in Italy and one in Spain. Although she is glad to be back, Caterina, a double major in Italian and Spanish, is going through withdrawal from being overseas for so long.

“I was really looking forward to being back at Saint Mary’s because I had been abroad for a whole year and was beginning to really miss normal life on campus, but now I really miss both Spain and Rome,” she said. “I already miss being able to discover something absolutely new every single day, being surrounded by history, and the excitement of not knowing what I’m going to see that day or who I’m going to talk to.”

Not all of those who studied abroad are having as much difficulty re-adjusting. For sophomore Kayleigh Young, everything is falling right into order.

“As of yet, I have not experienced any sort of culture shock,” Young said. “I love being home and at Saint Mary’s. I missed the campus and all of my friends.”

Though not all of them have had the same return experience, all of the girls agreed on one thing – studying abroad changed their lives.

“It opens up your eyes to so many new things and allows you to see and experience the world at such a young and influential age,” Caterina said. “There are so many great opportunities to travel once you are abroad and you are given the chance to see so much. You also learn how to be independent and manage things without your parents around.”

For those students who are planning on studying abroad through one of the many opportunities provided by Saint Mary’s or Notre Dame, Young has one piece of advice.

“Keep an open mind and remember that you are lucky to have this opportunity so do not be afraid to try new things,” she said.