Coming Back from Being Abroad
Where do I even start? I cannot articulate or explain my experience studying abroad in Kenya this past fall semester. Now, I’ve been back in lovely and cold Canton for almost two months and Kenya feels like a dream. I still cannot wrap my head around the fact that I just lived in, to be blunt, a developing country for four months on my own. This was also my first time on the African continent. But, it was real, and I’ve come face to face with reverse culture shock as many people call it. Picking up your things and moving across the world as a 20-year-old was terrifying. My mother grew up in cities all over the world, so we have been fortunate enough for my parents to pass on to my brothers and me their love for traveling. Sitting on the plane in JFK moments before taking off on a 14-hour journey and knowing I am not coming back to the US, my home, for four months. I remember sitting in my cramped airplane seat realizing that, this is going to be a LONG flight with this limited space and the man next to me taking up as much room as he possibly can. But, more importantly, this feeling of never coming back. When we go on vacations with family, friends, etc. we don’t think of “never coming back” but we have an end date. My end date was December. My head filled with exciting thoughts, negative thoughts, and how I was about to experience the best four months of my life. I can now confirm, East Africa was truly the most influential and amazing experience I have ever encountered.
Since being back, it’s been quite difficult adjusting but also so exciting to see my friends again. I missed the campus and my place here. I am someone who likes to put a lot of tasks on my plate and stay busy. Which in this case, hurt me in letting myself adjust back to the states, my home, my family, and life here. Being one of the very few white people and being a young woman in Kenya came with looks, comments, etc. and we all became numb to it. Not needing to do that back here in the states was something I never thought I would have to think about or adjust to. Coming back, I loaded my plate once again so I can beat the jet lag, work, and get back into my routine. I then did the same thing here at SLU. A few weeks in, I realized that I have not let myself adjust back to my life here because SLU has not changed but I have. The amazing individuals that were in Kenya with me have been my rock and people that understand what I am going through. You can never explain to someone the Kenya Semester Program (KSP) because you have to live it to understand. This goes for all off-campus programs. This idea of reverse culture shock is something that we did not dive into before leaving and now I truly understand what it means. Kenya changed my mindset and myself as a whole in a positive way. I wish every day I could re-live those four months with the group of students I never thought I would love so much. One of the constant topics we will bring up, still to this day, is how we all sit in classrooms and are eager to pick up and travel. The KSP emphasizes experiential learning throughout the semester because we will have two weeks of classes then pick up and go to apply what we have learned into the real world. I sit in my classrooms and I ask, when’s the next field trip? We are the lucky percentages of students that were able to experience first-hand living in a developing country and SLU does an amazing job.
I cannot thank St. Lawrence enough for providing me the opportunity to study in Kenya. I was able to learn to travel and adjust on my own which I now feel like I can accomplish anything. I learned the true meaning and my own meaning of happiness and simplicity through culture, strength, and love. Lastly, learning how to be comfortable with being uncomfortable was a skill that we all had to face and thrived in these situations which will be a life-long skill I’ll always cherish. Thank you SLU for bringing me an experience I will love and cherish forever.