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Students return to America

Peter Durbin | Thursday, January 31, 2013

Despite their excitement upon returning to their ‘home under the Dome,’ many Notre Dame students find they struggle to adjust to life stateside after a semester immersed in another culture abroad.

Junior Kathleen Ryan said she was surprised at the challenge readjusting to her daily routine presented upon her return from a fall semester in Toledo, Spain.

“My mom would fix a big family dinner at 6 p.m. but I wouldn’t get hungry until 9 p.m. [because that was dinnertime in Spain],” Ryan said.

The biggest difference in her daily schedule abroad, at home and at Notre Dame was that her days abroad were more variable, Ryan said.

“I miss the exploration aspect and that there was really no daily routine,” Ryan said. “It was different every day.”

Ryan said she was relieved to return to the strong faith present at Notre Dame.

“The Notre Dame kids in our program were great and they stuck together, but just little things like not being able to go to English Mass were difficult,” Ryan said.

After living as a foreigner in Spain for several months, Ryan said it was a relief to assimilate easily into the community around her.

“I was walking around campus and thought, ‘Wow, no one’s looking at me,'” Ryan said. “I don’t stand out here, which is kind of nice.”

Ryan said her fall semester in Toledo, Spain, challenged her to expand her grasp of the Spanish language.

“The language barrier was the most difficult aspect of study abroad, because everyone tells you that you’re going to have a little bit of culture shock, because literally everything is in Spanish,” Ryan said. “You can’t really comprehend that until you get there.”

Ryan said she embraced the opportunity to make a new home abroad.

“Some people complain that the [new] culture and families are so different, but I always felt that I could have encountered my host family in any city in the United States,” Ryan said.

Junior John O’Brien, who studied in Ireland at University College Dublin, said he noticed an increase in his workload upon returning to campus.

“It’s definitely been difficult acclimating back to life on campus,” O’Brien said. “The workload is a lot different from study abroad, and it’s been tough trying to get myself motivated to do homework that I might not have done while abroad. I am slowly getting back in the routine and back to work … Being around other people has been helpful because you see how hard they’re working and it motivates you to work harder.”

After returning stateside, O’Brien said he missed the mobility of his abroad experience, which let him travel to other countries on a whim.

“I miss the freedom of it– while you’re here you’re a bit more confined to campus,” O’Brien said. “Every weekend I was going to different cities, it was really awesome.”

While abroad, O’Brien said he missed the most distinctive camaraderie of campus life at Notre Dame. In particular, he said living in a singlenin Dublin differed sharply from residence life in a 200-person dormitory.

“I missed being with all the guys around the dorm,” O’Brien said. “I missed going to football games and going out on the weekends.”

Contact Peter Durbin at [email protected]