Spain: an Afterward

I’ve spent the three weeks since returning from Spain trying to explain what I feel and how I’ve changed. And after all this time I’m not much closer to an answer. I was warned repeatedly that reverse culture shock coming back can be worse than when you enter a new country. I guess I didn’t believe it.. Missouri has been home for 21 years, how could it hurt me? now I think I understand, because strangely it doesn’t feel like home. These surroundings are familiar perhaps, though certainly not normal.

When I went to Spain the shock I encountered could be attributed to fear of the unknown. Here I can’t do that, there’s nothing new to blame. The result is that I feel absolutely lost. It’s like reaching for something you routinely use and it being out of place; what’s more, you’re not sure exactly where you expected it to be. my whole life is here, yet something is not quite right. Like it’s shifted out of place, and I don’t know how it should be.

I made a mistake. I returned and expected to pick up my life right where I left it in January. The truth is that I can’t because I’m just not the same person. I’ve grown in both perspective and experience. Those are now parts of me that cannot be packed away. Yet these gains have not been without loss. Somewhere outside my comfort zone I surrendered my sense of home. In the long run that will likely be a good thing, for now it’s enough to know that it’s okay.

There’s two things I learned from my short time studying abroad that I will carry forward. The first is that home is a fluid concept. Anywhere can be home if we make it so, it is something we constantly recreate. The other is how concrete our sense of belonging can become. You see, belonging is not tied to a place, rather to the people with which we surround ourselves.

Enough of my rambling writing. I guess what I’m trying to say is that my life is an uncertain balance. I can’t tell you exactly how I’ve changed. I definitely don’t have a grasp of my emotions. What I do know is that I’m capable of making anywhere home; and that if I surround myself with the right people, I can face any uncertainty that each day brings.

Peace, Love, and Happiness…

–Joe

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Spain: beforehand

spainflag

Occasionally life throws you a curve ball that you’re just not quite sure what you did to deserve. Often they can be amazing opportunities, and sometimes the hardest part is simply to say yes. It’s so easy to remain skeptical and watch a chance pass you by.

Back in September I was walking through the student union; earbuds in, ignoring the world. Fortunately there was a professor intent on making sure I knew about a certain study abroad program. I tried all the excuses, and he shot them all down. The cost, the language barrier, too late in my academic career, etc., etc. He countered it all. So I took a flyer and agreed to speak with my advisor about it.

Short version of this story is that I’m going to Spain next semester. I’ll be studying for three months at the Instituto Franklin UAH just outside Madrid. The decision came after a good long bout of personal turmoil, discussions with some people I trust for advice, and great deal of prayer. You see I had ruled out the possibility of studying abroad early in my collegiate studies. Of course, one of my more immediate faults is that once my mind is made up I have trouble going a different way. Yet here I am.

Fast forward to now. It’s December, I’ve finished my fall semester and the full notion that shortly I’ll be living in another country has really sunk in. Everyone keeps asking if I’m ready for my trip, the answer is always no but I am excited. Scared shitless is a more proper description of my state of mind. But I guess that’s okay. Being a little uncomfortable is how we grow. This will be so many things, I just hope that I can find the words to tell the story.

Peace, Love, and Happiness…

–Joe

spainlearn

Rules for Taking College Classes

As promised here is the (unofficial) Rules of Taking College Classes. Compiled from my own experience, but also from a well versed group of said students. Enjoy!

1. Never, ever procrastinate! ever.

–unless it’s saturday night, in which case go have fun

2. Don’t sign up for a class before 9am

–It’s a trap!

3. Do the reading

–Netflix is not actually a priority (even grey’s anatomy)

4. Call your mom

–20min a week is the very least you can do

5. In the event of a presentation, learn to pronunciate

–at least know what you copied+pasted into that slide

6. Don’t. Just Don’t.

–courtesy of my currently overwhelmed nursing friend

7. Set an alarm

–you’re not capable of waking in exactly 10min

8. Sit in the same seat

–don’t be THAT person

9. Or be that person…

–monotony is a killer

10. Strive to join the honor society

–courtesy of my¬†Phi Theta Kappa president

11. Be proactive in doing homework

–you don’t want to miss out on something fun

12. Take time away from academia for yourself

–extracurriculars are great

13. Eat (nourish thine body!)

–stress combined with long classes is already bad enough for you

14. Hydrate before drinking

–of course I’m underage. so, this one is not from personal experience…

15. Learn some sort of shorthand, abbreviation, or whatever

–u tire me ot w/ ur lengthy nt takin

16. Above all, simply go to class!

–There is no substitute for effort

abikke