28.06.2016 90 °F
I've been reflecting a lot lately and maybe what I am going to write will help another exchange student out there. The feelings that I have could be stemmed to my reverse culture shock, but it's worth a shot to see that I'm not the only one out here feeling like this.
When I left to go on exchange, I made a promise to leave my "old self" behind so that I could venture out on my journey. I also promised myself that I would maintain all the friendships that I had from back home that I could while I was away but slowly my friends started to drop like flies. That isn't to say that I was ever without friends. What I mean is that as I started really indulging into everything that is exchange, I realized that my friends and I had such different interests. A lot of my friends were still stuck on the very secular, "typical" teenage lifestyle and there I was at 17 doing something so out of my realm that my whole exchange just felt like a dream. The best way that I can put this is that my friends and I simply grew apart.
Were my friends mad at me for leaving them so soon to go and do something really fantastic (and crazy) with my life? Yes. Some were. I quickly learned that these friends weren't going to be around for long and that even if they were around after my exchange, I wouldn't be able to tell them about all the neat experiences that I had while I was away because they just were not going to understand.
Fortunately enough, though, all the friends that I had "lost" were quickly replaced with the exchange students I got to know before going on my journey and the ones that I got to meet during my time away.
Aside from our common dream, the exchange students that I befriended were wholesome people. They understood what it was like to go through culture shock, they understood how it felt when there was a culture "misunderstanding", they knew what it was like to feel genuine homesickness and I realized that for the rest of my life, these same people would be the only people that I could ever go to regarding an exchange feeling.
Sure, go on a trip for 2 weeks with your school and go be a tourist in a couple countries, but don't try and relate to me about going to another country, by yourself, for a year, living with multiple families, and trying to make a life in this new place. It's just not the same.
Coming home, I had mixed emotions for several reasons. My time away was going to be officially over and my life would go back to what it was before. However, one of the things that I worried about the most was how it would be going back having fewer friends than I did when I left.
I came home and saw a few people and none of the interactions I had with my "friends" were the same. I felt like a stranger and most of my reunions were uncomfortable. There was one friend I was excited to see in particular, but once we saw each other again, I felt that the friendship fell apart.
So that's where I'm at right now. Sometimes, I feel lonely because I miss the social life I had while on exchange. Some might advise that I apply my same extroverted-ness here in my home country, but the social realm is so much different here. In South America, I can go out whatever night of the week, with my friends, and there will always be something to do. If we stayed out until 1 AM at a café its okay because the cafés are still open and its just what people do. Here, not so much. Anyone under 18 has a curfew, if not from their parents, but the city in which they reside. There is no "going out" unless you're in college and most of the things that I find kids my age doing are not safe nor are they responsible.
Saying all of that ^^^^^ makes me feel like a stickler. I had tons of fun on my exchange, so it's not like I've lost my ability to enjoy myself, but I think that what I miss the most is the social culture that the United States lacks.
Moving forward now that I am home from exchange, I'll continue to apply what I've learned to my life here and succeed in everything that I can. I'm maintaining the friendships with the people I've met in Peru and I'm happy.
This was kind of an emotional post for me, because there's so much more that I want to say... I just don't know how to say it.
Sorry for the soap box,