Before going to Italy for a year, I had tons of people tell me that returning home would be harder than leaving; that there would be reverse culture shock and even worse home-sickness. I didn’t believe them. I have lived in this country my whole life, the culture ingrained in me, so how could it be worse coming home?
Upon arriving in Italy, I was suddenly surrounded by next to no English, crazy drivers, new and unknown foods, and a culture very different than what I had known. Yet, it was all so exciting, because it was new and different. Being in school and living in the city center, being surrounded 24/7 by everything Italian, really pushed me to interact and get out of my own little bubble of comfort, and try to immerse myself in it. It didn’t take long at all before I knew the city, where to go, times to go places, what to do on certain days, and to find my favorite places for food, art, etc. While I did experience some culture shock and homesickness, it quickly went away as I became more and more used to life in Italy. I didn’t want to leave.
And now I want to go back. America is so vastly different than anywhere I traveled in Europe, and especially from where I lived in Florence, Italy. Everything is so big here, everything moves too fast, everything is spread out. I still am getting mixed up with using cash here again.
When I came back, I didn’t return to San Francisco, the place I’ve called home wince starting college. Instead, I landed in Boise, Idaho, where my family lives; a place drastically different than SF. It is smaller, flat, and spread out. So I didn’t have that immediate shock of returning to a big, bustling city. But it was still a shock. Beyond any culture aspects, the biggest shock to me has been being surrounded by a language I can fully understand: English. After a year of only partially understanding conversations around me, I can now hear everything, and it feels really weird.
When I moved back to SF it was yet another change for me, but a little less shocking. I knew this city and had lived here for a few years, had my favorite places to go, my friends were all here. But it’s still been weird. Everything is so spread out. You have to drive nearly everywhere (there isn’t great transit by my place) and it takes at least an hour to do so. It doesn’t feel as safe to go certain places by myself, especially out at night; people generally aren’t out wandering the city at night. I don’t live walking distance to my friends, or anything for that matter.
I miss walking through the small historic streets. I miss the amazing museums and churches just filled to capacity with history and art. I miss the little enoteca and pizzeria downstairs from me. I miss wandering the streets at night, staying out with friends until the early morning. I miss the school, and all the amazing teachers and unparalleled education I got there. I miss how easy and cheap it was to travel. There is so much, and it really just isn’t the same here. Studying abroad really does change you, and I can’t wait ‘till the next time I get the chance to return to Italy.