Embracing the both/and
Erin Grimes | Tuesday, October 15, 2019
I spent all of sophomore year studying abroad in Innsbruck, Austria. It was wonderful and challenging, super fulfilling and really, really hard. My journey there ended, and now I’m back in the States, readjusting to life in the Midwest again and trying to process that year. It’s been four months since I came home and two months since I’ve been back at Saint Mary’s. For the most part, I think I am doing well with readjusting. Since I came home, it’s felt like I never left. Innsbruck seems like a faraway place; just like when I was there, Indiana felt like a faraway place.
I am glad to be back in the United States. I love being back at Saint Mary’s, and I love that at Saint Mary’s I can go home for a quick weekend since I only live 45 minutes away. I love participating in Sunday Mass at Loretto and weekday Mass in Le Mans again. I love that I don’t have to worry about a language barrier at stores or restaurants, and I love that I can get free refills on drinks when I am eating at a restaurant again.
But every so often I find myself wishing I could be back in Innsbruck. I miss walking and sitting along the Inn River. I miss gazing at the mountains from the window of my apartment bedroom. I miss walking to Altstadt (“old town”) and Maria Theresa plaza. I miss the beautiful churches, and I miss the delicious food. Most of all, I miss the feelings I got when I was there: independence and freedom.
At first, I was confused why I missed Innsbruck because, as I was approaching the day of my flight back to the States, all I wanted to do was go home. I also got annoyed about these feelings because I didn’t want to miss Innsbruck. But I’ve been realizing that over the course of that year abroad, Innsbruck became a second home for me. So it’s only natural that I miss it.
I’m realizing that it’s normal to feel what seem like two contrary emotions at the same time. That how I feel about a situation is a both/and, not an either/or.
It is not simply that Innsbruck was wonderful, and I miss being there. It is not simply that I am glad to be home and wouldn’t have wanted to stay any longer in Innsbruck than I did. It is both. These feelings can and do coexist side-by-side and even intertwine themselves together.
As I continue on with the rest of this semester, I am going to make both/and my mantra. I am going to continue to enjoy being back on the Saint Mary’s campus while also missing Innsbruck and all that I experienced there.
To do or feel otherwise would mean that I would be lying to myself and robbing myself of the power of my study abroad experience.
The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.