When I first got off the airport tram in the middle of the Orlando airport, I was filled with terror. I knew my parents would be around the corner waiting for me but I just didn’t feel ready for my current reality. Twenty-four hours ago I was in my apartment with the two girls who I knew to be my community for the whole year, and in an entirely different country. So much had changed while I did nothing… all I did was sit in a chair on a plane. When I stepped off the plane, the language, food, people, currency, and community had all changed dramatically. Although I knew it was just for two months, the fact that all of these things were native to me but also foreign terrified me. How do you process adjusting back to your native culture?
The first week back was overwhelming to say the least. Every time I said the names Maggie or Lydia (the two other girls from my STINT team) I started to cry. Even though there were always people around me, I felt so alone without them. Maggie was in Arizona and Lydia was still in Paris. Adjusting without them was painful but I think it will prove helpful in the long-term. After all, my STINT year with them is finished and I won’t have them around next year when moments are tough.
One of the most overwhelming things I’ve dealt with is the amount of English. In Paris, I don’t pay attention to the conversations around me unless they’re in English. The moment I recognize English I immediately pay attention. But here in America, almost every conversation around me is in English and it sends my head spinning. I’ve become so trained to listen to every conversation that I hear in English and that now means listening to every conversation around me. It’s enough to make your head hurt… every day.
But not every day has been overwhelming. After about two weeks, I felt more settled and my brain started to process the conversations around me as background noise. The first places I wanted to go to were Target and 4Rivers (a local Orlando BBQ favorite). Target was definitely overwhelming, but GLORIOUS! In Paris, it’s difficult to find many items and they’re much more expensive than in the United States. So Target seems like a dream. They have everything! And 4Rivers was just as good as I remembered… I LOVE their pulled chicken sandwiches!
Paris may have the Louvre and the Eiffel Tower, but it doesn’t have my close friends and support system. I’ve loved my time here because of the special moments I’ve had with people I love. One of those special moments was a good friends wedding, where I had the honor of being her MOH. I’m so incredibly thankful for the priveledge to stand next to her as she got married. Living overseas makes it difficult to be a part of friends big moments but fortunately I haven’t had to miss many weddings. Being back, I’m reminded that special places and experiences aren’t so special when you don’t have someone to share them with.