"Once you have traveled, the voyage never ends.”
- Pat Conroy
Having come to the end of my semester abroad, I am now happily reflecting on the ways that I have been shaped by this experience. Looking back on this season of life, I can see the countless people and places that have broadened my understanding of the world around me. Because of this opportunity, I have tried new foods, seen new sights, and experienced new cultures within six different countries – each one uniquely beautiful and inviting. In my transition back home, I am sure to feel the differences between life here and life in the States.
Looking ahead, I am now finalizing all my plans for the journey back to the States. First, I needed to ensure that my visa requirements were all double-checked to avoid any possible delay at the airport. I also needed to plan for my transportation to the airport, looking at options that ranged from a taxi to a train to a bus. With the suitcases that I will be bringing, it is likely that a taxi will be the best option – especially since the airport is approximately one hour away from my apartment here in Berlin.
As I am preparing for my flight back home, I am making sure that everything I own has been located and set aside to be packed. I am beginning to tuck away all my clothing into various suitcases, only leaving out what I think I will use in the next week or so. I am also planning ahead for the food that I have in my fridge and pantry and deciding what meals I should eat, hoping to waste as little as possible. I am currently gathering all important documents – passport, ID card, and even various documents to satisfy all COVID requirements.
Going back to the U.S. is in many ways very exciting – getting to see friends and family again, surrounding myself with community at the University of Cincinnati, and preparing for summer classes. However, coming home will certainly involve making many small adjustments over the next few months. Even hearing English spoken casually by the people around me will feel very different to me. Here, I usually cannot understand many of the conversations I hear, so it will be interesting to see how odd it feels to understand what people are saying again.
One major adjustment I will face when back in the States will involve my approach to transport. Here in Berlin, I have had a largely pedestrian lifestyle, regularly relying on public transportation whenever necessary. In the States, I will own a personal vehicle and will likely use it to run errands, visit friends, or do other things in my daily routine. However, having been in Germany and seeing all the benefits of not owning a car, I hope to reduce the amount that I rely on my car by walking to nearby locations and researching public transportation options that might be available in my area.
Another adjustment I am sure to experience will surround the topic of food. In my experience of Europe, the preparation and eating of meals provides sacred time for conversation and connection – not something to be rushed or skipped over. In my personal experience within the United States, meals are often optional, and if there is a moment for food to be eaten, it is done as quickly as possible to avoid the loss of valuable time. Going forward, I hope to use food as a way to connect with others and to spark good conversation with the people that I interact with on a daily basis.
Overall, I can say that it is bittersweet to be leaving this place that I have called home for the past three months. My experience abroad has opened the world to me and has shown me sides of life that, until recently, I had not seen. I am excited to bring the things that I have learned here into my practice back at home, introducing the best parts of my time here into my everyday routines. I have genuinely loved seeing how I have been personally shaped by these last few months, and I hope to continue in my journey to live purposefully and to have a positive impact on the world around me.