Looking back on a five-month journey living in a foreign land is nothing to ponder lightly. I feel there is a multitude of areas of the life I lived abroad in need of being addressed, each aspect deserving individual attention. Comparing my more traditional days now to the ones so rich with fresh experience in South America brings out these cultural variances. The content of these realizations continues to linger as valuable even into the current period that has come to be my return to normalcy.
What I currently experience daily cannot be evenly stacked up against the trials and tribulations that formed my existence abroad. But the best way I have learned to curb a consequential sense of desire for my recently concluded life is to train my thoughts and emotions under the notion of gratitude and optimism–seeing my past as an experiential gift for the present, and the way I deal with the present as a quiz for the future.
Even though merely two short months have passed since I have returned to the United States from Lima, Perú, I continually feel the ease at which my experiences abroad can become foggy. This certainly does not reflect the incredible memories I made during my stay in my new favorite country, so I do all that I can to keep Perú in my day-to-day thoughts. Part of this means remembering what I did each day, and focusing on the then seemingly miniscule aspects of my everyday routine. A portion of my education abroad experience was of course maintaining the lifestyle of a college student in a foreign land.
Prior to my stay abroad I had been a consistent performer in my classes and an overall active participant in traditional collegiate level learning. But during my time studying in Lima, I now realize, I went through a mental transition pertaining to my academic self. Even though my classes were stimulating and surely worthwhile, I found much more value in the simple act of going through the motions of life through the lens of and with the norms of a varying society than that of my own. Perú is where I discovered the meaning and importance of experiential learning.
I did not realize this as I was down there, and in fact I feel strongly that being abroad is not about ‘changing oneself’ or ‘growing as a person’ during the actual time of one’s trip. It is about focusing to the best of one’s ability on the matter at hand. Being present is a notion extremely difficult for any human being to grasp, but for small segments of my time in South America I could start to feel myself shift toward this type of mindset.Why should I worry about what has transpired or what is pending to be when there is always something valuable to learn in front of my face? This invisible tweak in the way I viewed school and the overarching scope of my days has seeped into the way I think now; as I refuse to revert to where I was before academically.
I have found in coming back to the states that taking on a renewed identity of a Seattle University student means more to me than it before my trip, as I now feel I have the tools to not only take advantage of what I am learning in the classroom, but to also value the possible attainment of knowledge from life’s simplest nuances. This current reentry period is nothing if not a process, and it will take time for me fully reflect and explore the relationship between my experiences in Perú and their respective applications here at home.