The One Thing You WON’T Miss About Studying Abroad

There are little things that pop up in everyday life once you’re back home that will remind you constantly of your time spent studying abroad. For me, it’s usually things like craving eggs and rice for breakfast or walking to class in the rain, but today it was something much different. Anyone who has heard about my time abroad will confirm that I honestly think the worst part about my time spent in Costa Rica was the day I had to fly back home. This was partially because I had a 10 hour layover alone in Dallas after a late night of packing and a morning spent crying saying goodbye to my host family, but I also can’t think of any other one thing that was less pleasant in my two months abroad than that day… until I was reminded just now.

I don’t know if my roommates all decided to shower and do laundry and run the dishwasher all at the same time tonight or what was going on, but I just experienced my first cold shower in over four months, and it was really, really miserable. And the whole time I was just thinking, “I did this every single day for two months straight and I didn’t hate it more than I hated coming home.” If you weren’t aware, hot water tanks are not a thing in Central or South America. Showers are almost always powered by a small heating device attached to the head of the shower, and that’s if the family chooses to use “hot” water to shower at all. (I put “hot” in quotation marks because in Costa Rica, “caliente” really means just above room temperature when talking about water.) This had to have been a hard adjustment for me at first, because here in the United States I feel zero shame in using an entire tank of hot water for a steamy 30 minute shower after a hard day, but it seems to be something about my time abroad that just slips to the back of my mind… that is, of course, until I’m reminded by stepping into a surprisingly cold shower here in my own apartment.

Cold showers became so routine for me that they almost faded from my memory, and if that–coming from a girl that would live in a permanent state of shower if it were possible–isn’t proof that a short time living in another country and another culture can make a substantial change to who you are, I don’t know what is. I love America, Β and I love hot showers, and I love hot water tanks, so tonight I am beyond grateful for all those things, but the latter two things didn’t matter much to me at all for most of the summer, so think about whether what you “love” is really what you love, and don’t let any of those things keep you from learning and experiencing the world in a whole new way.

Pura Vida,

Emily

To read more about my study abroad experience, visit my bilingual blog at www.emilyhenning.wordpress.com.

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3 thoughts on “The One Thing You WON’T Miss About Studying Abroad

  1. Oh goodness, my study abroad experience in Italy is about to come to an end and my roommates leave a day earlier (aka I’ll be so so alone) I am not looking forward to it aha. Any tips on how to cope with the excitement/sadness ?

    1. It’s okay to cry at the airport… it’s okay to cry at all the airports and on every plane. My best advice for being back in the United States would be to keep in touch with the people you met abroad and to talk the ear off of anyone who will listen. Not very many people will want to hear every little anecdote that you’ll feel super compelled to share, so be grateful for and take advantage of the people that will at least pretend to listen. And try to keep using the language in some way every day like you had to in Italy!

  2. I completed my immersions (plural) between April 2007 and May 2010 aged 64-67, and the homestay experience and the reentry (reverse culture shock) still happens late in life! I just returned from a couple months in Oaxaca, Mexico, as a volunteer teacher. I, too, miss rice, beans, and tortillas for breakfast, and returning to Minnesota in December was a real shock. Oh well, I’ll be back in Oaxaca next January! (By the way, we honeymooned in Costa Rica when I didn’t speak Spanish. Hermosa!)

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