Transitioning back from abroad
Selena Ponio | Wednesday, March 1, 2017
I didn’t realize how much I liked breakfast.
I spent last semester in Toledo, Spain, where every meal was pushed back at least three hours and breakfast just did not exist. Scrambled eggs were unheard of and boxes of cereal were a rarity in our local Suma (a chain of grocery stores in Spain).
Coming back, the change in dinner times from 10 p.m. to 6 p.m. and the existence of breakfast were examples of easy transitions. The transition back into U.S. culture was something I anticipated and in several ways looked forward to — I’ve woken up early to get breakfast at the dining hall more times than I have in my previous two years here just because the concept of being able to make scrambled eggs again excited me so much.
However, I only thought about the transition back into the familiar and didn’t consider the transition into the unfamiliar. For example, not being surrounded by Spanish at all times. Coming back, hearing and speaking Spanish was restricted into these hour and 15 minute blocks every Tuesday and Thursday.
The hardest transition was realizing how many of my closest friends went abroad the semester after I returned. Campus transformed a little for me as I became acutely aware of the fact that what made Notre Dame so homey for me was the people, and that things like how the Dome looked in the snow or the rare days that feel like springtime were supplementary.
In many ways, the transition coming back from abroad was harder than the transition going abroad to a different country. Going to Spain, I braced myself for new experiences every day and welcomed the unfamiliar. I didn’t realize that feeling of unfamiliarity would have a ripple effect coming back.
However, I’ve become increasingly thankful for this feeling of unfamiliarity. Going abroad pushed me out of my comfort zone, gave me a host family that acts as a reason to return to Spain in the future and exposed me to a multitude of cultures and different ways of life. Coming back from abroad has taught me to appreciate my friendships in a different way; although no longer a 30-second walk from my dorm room, the Skype sessions and constant “I miss you” texts with my best friends in London and Ireland have me feeling excited for the reunions we’ll experience this summer and senior year.