Back to reality. That is the mentality many former study abroad students have as they dive back into classes at the Gonzaga campus this semester. After several months of whirlwind travel and adventure, getting back into a regular routine here at GU can be a strange transition.
Nina Catalano, a junior who spent last semester in Florence, Italy, says the most difficult part about being back in Spokane has been the return of a normal day-to-day schedule. “The biggest change has probably been getting back into a structured lifestyle,” she says, “because in Florence you get used to going to class for a few hours, and then getting on a train to somewhere.” One of the things she misses most about Florence is “how easy it was to do something awesome, like on a whim decide to take a flight to Morocco, and come back on Monday to take a test.” Being back in the states, being back on one campus, “isn’t bad,” she says, “but it’s something you have to get used to again.”
Aaron Gonzales, another student returning from Gonzaga-in-Florence, couldn’t agree more. For him, being back at Gonzaga feels almost “sedentary”. Florence was all about living in the moment, “and you can’t really do that here,” he says. “So much of my life was traveling,” he says, and it is difficult coming back and staying in the same place. School here at GU is not boring by any means, he stresses, but there is a lack of spontaneity that he and other students miss.
Junior Lauren Porter has returned this semester from Granada, Spain, and she is missing the carefree lifestyle as well. “I miss my host family, I miss tapas, and I miss not having much homework,” she says. Coming back to Gonzaga means coming back to normal life and to normal responsibilities. Porter says she expected things to feel more like they did last year than they do now. “When you come back in the spring and realize you only have (a year of school) left, everything becomes more real, and you have to focus more,” she says.
It is also difficult for these students to be back, knowing that life went on while they were abroad. Catalano finds it odd, “It’s weird to think that life went on while we were away,” she says. “Coming back, it’s just as hard for us to hear about the fun times at GU as it is for other people to hear about our time abroad.” There is jealousy on both sides, which she finds surprising.
However unexpectedly strange it may feel to be back here at Gonzaga, these students wouldn’t trade their semester abroad for anything. “Studying abroad is invaluable,” Porter says, “and even though it definitely changes things, it’s for the better.” She, as well as other former study abroad students, have advice for others who will be participating in these programs in the future. “Reverse culture shock is real!” Catalano says, “But that doesn’t mean it’s a bad thing.” Porter emphasizes the need to be patient, to give yourself time to get back into the swing of things. “It’s not going to be normal,” she says, “so you have to spend time transitioning.”
Gonzales is an ambassador for the Florence program, and is there to help anyone with questions about the program, and about traveling in general. “I didn’t just do the study abroad experience,” he says, “I lived the study abroad experience.” He, as well as the other study abroad students, wants to make sure future study abroaders have the same positive experience as he did.
By Joanna Raustein
Categories: Life Abroad