Tag Archives: #thereturn

Realizing the Bigger Picture

You could tell I was the only one on my flight back to the United States who was not prepared for the winter chill. As we all boarded the airport shuttle, I saw people wearing winter parkas, boots, sweaters, and hats. I then proceeded to look at myself. I was wearing cropped leggings, a t-shirt, and flip-flops. Ha! Can you tell I had just returned from a semester abroad?

The change in climate was definitely my first experience of reverse culture shock. The voice of my host mother came to mind. “Indians would freeze in America; I know I would.” My inability to adjust to the cold climate made me feel more attached to India than I had in a long time. Without even realizing it, my body had adjusted to India’s climate, culture, and customs. For example, I hesitated handing the TSA officer my passport with my left hand because in India I would only use my right hand in social settings, for hygienic purposes.

The biggest reverse culture shock came during the holiday season. For the most part, people in Madurai were happy with what they had. The friends and host families I interacted with did not shop every weekend or buy an unnecessary amount of toys, food, etc. Indians are content. I returned to the United States and found the exact opposite. There were cars lined outside the mall’s parking lots. Cars had to park on the 5th and 6th floor of the parking garage because the lower levels were full. The traffic was insane; it was organized compared to the streets in India, but I could not believe the number of people out shopping. Suddenly I felt like America was materialistic. And we don’t have any shame in denying that we are! I simply wanted to crawl back to India where I was disconnected with certain parts of the world.

When I was India, I wanted to be back in the comfort of my home. Now that I am home, I miss the days when I could not do anything on the Internet because I would use up the monthly data; the days when I would take a 20-cent auto-rickshaw to Naina Sweet and order a plain dosa to eat by the street.



As much as I miss India, it’s nice to be home where I can enjoy views like this!


During my semester abroad, I wasn’t all too concerned about the “bigger picture.” I assumed that I would have an epiphany when I returned back to the United States. It may not have been an epiphany, but it did occur to me that living in India had a bigger impact than I thought it would. I felt a greater connection to India only after I returned home.

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Filed under Michelle in India, South & Central Asia

The Return

It feels like planets have lined up in order for my graduation day to come. At this point, I feel like the happiest person on Earth, because not only have I returned with such profound experiences in Argentina, but now I have the freedom apply what I have learned to my life at home. I have big plans for the future, but it starts here at my mother’s home where I will be moving in after graduation to help her around the house and start fresh.



Graduating with honors, class of 2016.


I didn’t come back with reverse culture shock like I had imagined, but I did go to the grocery store and came back with loads of cereal, junk food, and things I didn’t know I missed since I’ve been gone. I hope I don’t pick up any old habits! But in other terms of culture shock, I haven’t had any. However, I do feel like everything I have learned has significantly strengthened my critical thinking skills and my respect towards others. I can’t be any more thankful for having the support from my family and friends during these last few months and years.



My family.



I can’t help but miss Argentina. I miss my family, I miss my friends, I miss traveling, I miss the conversations I had with people on the streets, and I miss the music and culture. I feel like there’s always a surprise in Buenos Aires….I’ll be back soon, but not before I explore other parts of the world. My experience studying abroad opened my eyes and I think I caught the travel bug.



Wanda Abramor, a tango instructor in Buenos Aires.


One of my plans is to travel across the United States. While in Argentina, I realized I have hardly explored anything in the States. This summer I will take it upon myself to travel across the country to New York from Los Angeles. Not just for fun, but also to get a sense of what it is to be a North American. There are tremendous differences in all parts of the world and I want to know what make the States so different. Especially because of my experience in Argentina where I met people who felt strongly for or against North Americans. I need to experience it for myself.



Protesters during National Day of Memory (“Dia de la Memoria“) where nearly all Argentine citizens gather to celebrate democracy and memorialize the 40th anniversary of the civil dictatorship (1976-1983).


In the meantime, while I prepare for my trip across the country, I plan to publish a lot of the material I have from my study abroad experience in Argentina. One of the things I did was work with talented individuals by documenting their lives and their art. Because of them, I was able to experience an Argentina that exists outside of tourism. Now I owe it to them to publish this material and create for them more media presence. In addition, I will be posting a YouTube series of my 10-day trip in Salta and Jujuy, Argentina. This should be exciting because I have some real stories to tell, like the time the bus broke down and no one told me we changed buses and I almost lost all my stuff. I think this series will not only be fun to watch but will be of good use for anyone who plans to travel these northern regions in Argentina.



Beef empanadas.


Catholic Church in Angastaco – Salta, Argentina.


Something I feel most certain about traveling is that there is nothing I can be certain about. For example, I can plan to travel from point A to point B but I can easily be thrown off course by all the exciting things that are happening around me. I’m not saying one should always take the road not taken. I’m saying that sometimes our plans should be open to the circumstances that present themselves. I can’t do everything I set out to do, but I will make the best of my experience wherever I go.

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Filed under Robert in Argentina, south america