I’ve been back in the U.S. for a total of 4 four days now, and let me tell you, it has been no walk in the park. I was warned about experiencing culture shock upon arrival in Costa Rica but there is nothing more shocking than coming back to the American culture as I have recently discovered. The agendas, the pace of life, the “instant gratification” speed of it all, it’s crazy, and it’s definitely something that takes time to adjust to.
Something else that has taken time to adjust to is my idea of home. Leaving Costa Rica, a place that I called home, really made me question why it had become “home.” Since returning to the States, I have come to realize that it is not necessarily the place, but the people who make a place “home.” This might sound cliché but I have found it to be completely true, even after spending a mere three and a half months with people I previously didn’t know. It’s been quite an adjustment going from being surrounded by those 19 people who are ready to hang out or go get coffee at any moment, to being at home alone. I was talking to my mom the other day (because I have found that it’s important to talk about things, rather than keep them to myself, especially concerning my experience abroad) and she asked what I missed the most about Costa Rica. I thought about it for a moment and then confidently explained that I miss being part of a group — having that constant sense of belonging to something.
It’s been hard going from belonging to just being. Don’t get me wrong, I know I belong to my family and that I’m accepted here, but it’s different when you’re suddenly separated from the people you’ve been living with, learning with and experiencing new things with for the past four months. In a way, my ISA group became my family. We laughed together, we cried (from laughing) together, we climbed mountains (well technically, volcanoes) together, we swam in oceans together (really two oceans), we were challenged together, we grew together and we helped each other through a new and exciting time of life together — much like a family would.
This is why I have been moping around the past several days. I miss my family. I miss laughing with everyone and getting pizza at “our” pizza place, and playing soccer at “our” field and going to “our” classes. Something I’m very thankful for about my group is how accepting we were of each other. It was funny to realize that at the end of the program, I had not only learned about the culture of Costa Rica, but also the different cultures and lifestyles that characterize different parts of the United States. In all, we were a come-as-you-are kind of group, accepting of everyone. I am so glad that I opened myself up to the idea of getting to know everyone from the beginning because my semester in Costa Rica would have been very different if I hadn’t.
I know this post has been a little cheesy, talking about my friends and such, but my time in Costa Rica would have been very different had we not gotten as close as we did. I could end this post on a sad note, continuing to stress how much I miss my group, but instead I have found several positives. I now have a wealth of friends spread across the States, literally from coast to coast. And with a wealth of friends comes a wealth of opportunities to go and see those friends. Several road trips and reunions have already been planned and whether or not those road trips and reunions are actually realistic, I know that in the coming years, I will make every effort to see my new friends, or rather, family members.