I can still feel the cold tile underneath my feet. I can still taste the royale from Pizza Capri after a long night dancing. I can still smell the lavender. And when I close my eyes, I can still see all of Aix from my rooftop.
But the longer I stay here, the less vivid these senses become.
I’ve been back in the States for a week and things are still very foreign to me. Things are foreign to me….in America.
The first few days were spent trying to adjust to the more noticeable differences between Austin and Aix: the weather (a 20 degree difference), the language, the faster pace, the lack of simple pleasures.
After the initial honeymoon phase in which my elated state of my return quickly waned, a large portion of it had to do with my immediate family and boyfriend’s inability to fully understand the experiences I had abroad. As much as I tried to express the feelings I had, the memories I made, and the people I met, the conversations always ended in frustration due to their incapability to personally relate.
And of course, with the frustration of the change came the nostalgia. I missed grabbing a pain au chocolat on the way to school through the narrow, winding roads. I missed my apartment, the one with the best terrace in town, hidden between a British/American shop and a restaurant appropriately called “Burger Bar”. I missed my the short, five minute breaks our professors would allow during our four hour class, when I would meet with my friends from the other classes and we would share a petit cafe (as Ethan would call them). I missed the Meditterenean, the salty sea, the pebbles in lieu of sand. And I especially missed the people I met and the special kind of friendship that can really only come out of sharing an experience abroad.
I missed France. I miss France.
As much as I had known that my trip would be fairly short and that I would quickly have to readjust to the life I had before I left, I can’t say it really ever prepared me.
Once I was back in Texas, I was back to the same life I had before I left. My parents, siblings, friends and boyfriend were all the same. The same problems remained. My life was no longer on pause.
There is a place in my heart that will always have Aix in it, but more specifically, this past summer. As much as I try to recreate it in future trips there and as much as I intend to keep in touch with everyone I met this summer, it really won’t ever quite be the same.
Now that summer is winding down and preparation for school’s started up again, all the unfinished business I left, my upcoming senior year, and all of the decisions that my grown up life insists I make, I must find a way to implement what I’ve learned about myself and my life and begin readjusting.
Reverse culture shock. It’s a real thing.
I’d been told that adjusting to the US would be much more difficult than adjusting abroad. I was warned that I would become critical of my home country, that I would find my life here uninteresting, that it would be difficult to express my experience to my satisfaction and that maintaining people’s interest in my trip would inevitably wane after a while.
In hopes of stifling the effects or preventing it altogether, I read up on reverse culture shock prior to my return. What I found was that reverse culture shock was dealt with in stages: the honeymoon, the transitional, and the readjustment.
"Initial excitement and euphoria of being home with friends and family."
Truth be told, my honeymoon phase lasted a total of about 36 hours. The first 24 was when I changed my flight from August 1st to July 26th while I was in Grenoble. It was exciting to know with certainty when I was coming home. I couldn’t wait to see my family, my friends, my boyfriend and my cat. It was then that I really felt how long it had been since I had seen them.
During my trip, I realized that I never really missed home, simply the familiar and of course, my loved ones. I missed certain American habits and customs like clean restrooms and smiling politely at strangers. I missed people. However, I believe what kept me from ever getting homesick was that I knew I would come home soon. There is nothing quite like certainty to keep your emotions in check.
As I left France, the excitement of being home started to build up and once I saw Nick and my family, it was as if I had never left. But after the first day back, I missed Aix immediately. And so it was that I move on to the next stage: transition.
Ending my trip right where I started, I spent my last three days in Paris with Molly, Alia, Syafiq, Annie and Phillip.