The longer I’ve gone into the semester, the more I’ve missed Ecuador. Maybe it’s because the semester here got progressively harder and I was looking for an escape. Maybe it’s just part of the reverse culture shock, as the newness of the U.S. wears off again and I am once again feeling like I belong in at least three different places in this world. Whatever it is, I’ve been increasingly homesick for the place I knew and loved last semester. Here’s a small list of moments that brought it all flooding back:
- When my roommate made ceviche and patacones and I tasted it for the first time since I was at the coast in November
- When I tried to take the bus in Norman and it was soooo much worse than the buses in Quito
- Every time I would accidentally speak Spanish
- When my new friend Pabel told me I hugged like a Latina and it may have been the highest compliment I’ve ever received
- When finals week was actually hard this semester (okay, maybe those tears were for more than just missing Ecuador…)
- When the 7-year-old I babysat asked me if I knew where Ecuador was on the map pf South America and was astonished when I told him I went there
- When ordering pizza was so much easier in my first language when I knew my address and how to describe my home well
- When anyone would ask, “How was Ecuador?” and I’d have to spit something out in a socially acceptable amount of time that kind of covered the nearly five months I spent there
- When I got to spend a couple days in Barcelona and was once again surrounded by Spanish-speakers
- Now, as I’ve had Ecuadorian Christmas carols stuck in my head for an entire week for no apparent reason
It’s been a weird semester, with a lot more reverse culture shock than I ever anticipated, in spite of countless warnings. The first three weeks home with my family for Christmas were fine, but starting a new semester almost right away was tough, academically and personally. The best pieces of advice I have for dealing with it is just take it slow and talk it out. It takes time– there are still hard days for me after nearly five months. Talk to people who have come home before. They’ll get it, in a lot of ways, and it will make you feel less crazy. Hugs were also super helpful for me, though that’s as much my personality as it is an actual adjustment strategy. Overall, just be easy on yourself, as the process looks and feels different for everyone.
If you’re the friend of someone coming home from a long trip away, remember to go easy on them, too. Asking them one time how their extended trip was probably will feel kind of insulting. Instead, give them actual space to talk about their trip. It’s important. Listen when they tell stories. Ask questions. Ask them how they’re doing with the readjustment. For me, it was the biggest change I’d ever had to go through, and that took time and space to process. It’s 100% worth it to go, and I highly recommend it to everyone I talk to. Still, I wish I (and my friends) had known better how to help me readjust before I got to Norman and spent a couple solid weeks being a lot more sad and anxious than I needed to be.