The Transition Home and a Final "Ciao!"
Written by John April 16, 2014
A full week has now passed since I returned home from CIMBA and I cannot believe my study abroad experience has ended. It feels as if I awoke from a dream and definitely does not feel that I was away for three months LIVING the dream. Still, returning to America reminded me of all the customary things that I had previously taken for granted and now I can view them with a fresh viewpoint.
For those who read my last blog post, you are aware that I could not even wait to get home and unpack before I cleaned off a hefty plate of Mexican food! I think I had gone into a Mexican food withdrawal in Italy and it was on my mind for the entire 9-hour plane ride home! I find it nearly impossible to fall asleep on planes and thus was pretty tired after my Mexican binge and ready for sleep, but my family was way too excited to hear about my experience abroad for that to happen! My piece of advice is to down a cup of coffee at the airport Starbucks to make sure you are ready for the onslaught of questions coming your way! Traveling all-over Europe to places such as Barcelona, London, Dublin, etc. became second-nature to me as it had become a weekly occurrence. But, I failed to realize that my friends and family in the United States were anxious to hear my travel stories as soon as I landed.
One of the most prominent differences between Italy and America, for a college student, is the breakfast cuisine. In Italy, my breakfast consisted of hard boiled eggs that I dipped in olive oil and balsamic vinegar (taste it before you judge me….it is actually delicious!) and a croissant. I can confidently say that every day I would have a conversation with a fellow CIMBA student about how much we missed American breakfasts. So, the first morning home I drove to my local bagel shop and treated myself to a bacon, egg, and cheese breakfast sandwich. I can tell you that it was the most enjoyable breakfast experience I think I have ever had! (Yeah, I missed it THAT much!)
Of course, during the first week back there was plenty of jet lag. My time clock instantly changed by 6 hours so 6:00pm at night felt like midnight to me. The best method that I found to overcome jetlag is to fight through the sleepy feeling and commit to staying awake until 10:00pm, or whatever time is your regular bedtime. To do this, I visited my friends in the evenings and watched “House of Cards” on Netflix. I want to thank my Italian friend Valerio who first introduced me to “House of Cards” when Ricky and I stayed with him in London (during our travel week) because I am hooked!
Although I was excited to be back in the States and learn about what I had missed, I found myself enthusiastically telling all my friends about my CIMBA experience at every opportunity. Most of the conversations involved them asking “How was your study abroad?” or “Where did you visit?!” to which I answered their question and then would transition into other aspects of CIMBA . I remember multiple conversations where a friend or family member asked about my travel experiences throughout Europe and I would unintentionally go into a tangent about the neuroscience of leadership, my interactions with the local Italians, or how I now want to be a wine connoisseur! I noticed that it is difficult to talk about the specific details of CIMBA that made the program so rewarding because it is more relatable for others to hear about the exciting places you visited, the exotic food, or European fashion trends.
Another huge difference I became aware of during my first week home was the plethora of distractions available to me here that I did not have in Italy. Having a television again, a strong Wi-Fi connection, playing with my dog, etc. are all great things, but are diversions that I did not have in Italy; which made it easier to focus on my work. I noticed it has taken much more willpower to do my daily mindfulness activity as I do not have the orderliness and support system that I had at CIMBA. I foresee this being the biggest challenge to overcome as I transition back into American culture, but I am excited to overcome it and be that support system for others.
However, out of everything that I have noticed and thought about this first week, the biggest realization on my mind is that I will not be returning to campus at Paderno del Grappa anytime in the near future. I will miss the brutal sixth floor hike to my room, the convenience of having a single dorm, the beautiful Italian landscape, the fantastic professors, the Italian language, the Sports Complex, and most of all the friends I made. Going into CIMBA not knowing a single person was intimidating, but emerging from it with lifelong friends is an amazing feeling. I am excited to meet up with a few of the University of Delaware crew later this week and I am looking forward to visiting my new friends from other colleges over summer.
Wow, it is hard to believe that this is my final official blog post for CIMBA. One year ago today I would have told you that I would never be a blogger . . . it is funny how things change over time! Blogging about my experiences abroad has been extremely rewarding as my blog posts offer a week-by-week snapshot of my life over the past three months. Sometimes I look at my earlier blog posts and even I am surprised by what I had experienced that week! I definitely recommend that anyone who has ever considered starting a blog to do it! I am thinking about starting a personal blog to record my weekly events for myself to see in the future … we will see how that goes.
That is it for me! I hope you enjoyed my blogs over these past weeks. This semester was an amazing experience and I enjoyed sharing my practical and sometimes entertaining adventures with you. Ciao!
Some takeaway phrases I learned at CIMBA that are guaranteed to make any day, trip, or experience better: “Make the ordinary, extraordinary” (shout out to my coach Maria for that one and, me and Seamus’s favorite, “For the story!”