“It’s a funny thing coming home. Nothing changes. Everything looks the same, feels the same, even smells the same. You realize what’s changed, is you.” – F. Scott Fitzgerald
It’s truly peculiar what studying abroad can do to a person: change you. It can alter your perspective, shape your future, adjust your mindset and transform your attitude. While I was in Brazil, I couldn’t stop thinking, “Am I a changed person yet?” and “Am I changing? Is this what changing feels like? When do I know if I’ve changed?” After all, change is nearly the expectation when studying abroad. Retrospectively, I wasn’t looking beyond the physicality of it all, the blatant palpable parts of me. Of course, my legs weren’t going to grow any longer or my arms any shorter, but I was certain I would feel a sort of deep transformation brewing within me. At the time, all I got were crickets.
After two weeks of settling back into life in the United States—home—what I learned from my time in Brazil had begun unfolding and revealing itself to me piece by piece. While I believe only those who have dared to explore the unknown, tested their limits beyond their comfort zones and braved traveling to new parts of the world will more fully understand these changes, I want to explain some of the feelings and realizations I’ve encountered since returning to The States.
In many ways, I feel like a child again. Studying abroad freed an incredibly raw, honest, effortless happiness within me. A feeling that seems almost foreign, unknown and new because of its long absence. I imagine it as a similar sensation to riding a bike for the first time without training wheels- pure bliss. There is a surging giddiness that excitedly whispers, “say yes!” to new adventures because of Brazil and encourages me to explore more and worry less. I’ve made a conscious effort to become a ‘Yes Man.’
In other ways, I feel a million years older. Yes, I have a long journey ahead of me with plenty of time to decode all of life’s clichés, but I think studying abroad has given me a jumpstart to all of that. The things I’ve witnessed like the incomparable Iguazu Falls or impeachment of a president, and the resulting emotions of awe and shock I’ve felt have left a mark on me in a way that promises I will never forget those experiences or encounters. I’ve discovered new meanings to life’s clichés like, “life begins at the end of your comfort zone,” and understand why they became clichés in the first place.
Ultimately, studying abroad has taught me not to let a moment slip by and to appreciate everything God has blessed our world with. Still, at home, I feel like I am seeing the charm and greatness of some places and people for the first time. I guess that’s the true beauty of going out of your time zone: your life becomes a snow globe. You shake it up and watch as the little pieces swirl around freely before settling back to the bottom—always the same pieces swirling, never the same pattern settling.
I want to wholeheartedly thank Sergio, Sulia, CET and all of my friends from the program for making my adventures in Brazil memorable beyond words.
Until my next adventure,