One month from today, my little brother graduates from high school. Not only is my mind blown because he’s not old enough for that, but also because it means that in less than one month, I will be back in the states. Part of me is excited to be home, but I am also dreading having to say good-bye to all of my wonderful friends and this country that I have grown to love.
My time abroad has been truly brilliant and writing about all of my good experiences has been fun. But, just like anywhere else, every day is not perfect and living on another continent does come with some weird things that you have to get used to. Here are some examples:
- I don’t have a car and I live my life according to bus and train schedules.
- Going to the grocery store was challenging at first because the products are very different. Also, when checking out, customers bag their own groceries in reusable bags that were brought from home, because otherwise you have to pay for the plastic ones.
- Beds don’t have a loose sheet, only have a fitted sheet and duvet comforter.
- The temperature inside of buildings is regulated with heat radiators and by opening and closing windows, there is not central heat and air.
- When you ask for fries in the cafeteria line, the lunch lady will give you a funny look until you remember that they are called chips.
- Water fountains are basically non-existent. There are only four water fountains on the entire campus, two of which are in the sports center (gym), and you can forget about trying to find them in public places like shopping malls or airports.
- If you want water while in a restaurant, you order a bottle with “gas” or “no gas,” which results in Evian that is either sparkling or flat.
- The temperature is in Celsius, so it’s very confusing when people are super excited about it reaching anything near 20 degrees.
- Students call tutors (professors) by the first name, modules (class) only happen once a week for 3-4 hours, and each class typically only has 1-2 graded assignments.
- Electricity sockets have on/off switches, so if you plug your phone in at night and forget to turn the socket on, you will wake up to a dead battery (I’ve only done this about a dozen times).
- When you ask for black coffee in a restaurant, they bring you an Americano, not a cup of filtered coffee that came from a pot.
I could go on forever about all of the small things that are different, but that’s not really my point. My point is that the short list seems trivial when you read it, but in the moment, those small things can accumulate and become overwhelming. When I walked (or flew) into this study abroad experience, I knew that some days would be harder than others, but I also knew that those bad days are normal and should be expected. So, I will be the first to admit that there have been times when I really wished the rain would go away and moments when I’ve wanted nothing more than a hug from my Momma. But, those brief moments of wishing for home have been greatly outnumbered by all of the good. My time has been filled with fun and travel, but more importantly, my comfort zone has been stretched to accommodate for all of these small differences and other cultural norms that at first seemed so strange, but now, are second nature.