Even though I’ve been home from my semester abroad for about eight months now, I still miss it everyday. And it doesn’t help that I am having dreams every night that I’m still walking down via Faenza to my favorite panini shop. Most people say that when you study abroad you will go through culture shock. I don’t know if it was because I lived with three other American students or because I’m pretty sure I had permanent jet lag, but I didn’t experience any culture shock while in Italy. Reverse culture shock, however, is another story.
From the moment I looked out the plane window flying over Ohio and the miles of cornfields, I began to miss the cobblestone and the Tuscan vineyards. After collecting my bags from baggage claim and having a long awaited reunion with my family, we went out to eat for a celebratory dinner. At that moment, the reverse culture shock started to settle in. I sat down at the table and without thinking about it, kept my purse on my shoulder and set it in my lap. I began to reminisce on my experience with my parents when my dad stopped me and asked why I was holding onto my bag like it was my most prized possession (being that it was Italian leather, it actually might’ve been). I didn’t have an explanation other than that’s what we always had to do at any restaurant in Europe. That was just the beginning of my realizations. Life was definitely different back in the US, from not having to pay for a glass of water to being able to easily split the bill to now being judged for ordering a glass of wine with lunch at noon. Being back in the very small town of Athens, Ohio I continue to miss Florence on the daily. Although the brick streets do help with soothing my cobblestone craving, the constant reruns of the Kardashians and 24/7 Wal-Mart’s bring me back to the chaotic reality of the U.S.
Adjusting back to my normal life in the states was not easy to say the least. For the first two weeks, I dreaded getting up knowing that I would not be walking to Lorenzo de Medici for class or meeting my friends at the train station for a quick trip to Viareggio. But gradually, and I do mean gradually, I got back into my old routine of getting up, watching TV, eating cereal, going to work, driving to my friends’ houses, eating dinner at 6pm instead of 10pm, watching Netflix, and so on. Knowing that the barista at Starbucks wasn’t going to get to know me and personalize my name into my pumpkin spice latte or that I would not be tasting fresh bruschetta every week from my favorite appertivo, made me realize just how good I had it. I did miss my friends and family while I was in Italy, but I wanted them to come to me rather than me go back to them.
It took a while, but I think I can finally say that I am completely over the reverse culture shock. I am now back to my hectic college schedule with classes, coffee, club meetings, coffee, studying, coffee, working, coffee, coffee, cof.. you get the point! Don’t get me wrong, I do love being back with my friends at school and the beautiful autumn scenery that I wouldn’t get in Florence, but I can’t help but miss the daily questions and remarks of “What kind of pizza should I get?” or “Let’s meet at the Duomo” or “Wanna go to Venice this weekend?” But I learned to embrace the culture shock because with it came a lifetime of memories, friends, and experiences. I can’t completely say that it’s a good thing that I’m over the reverse culture shock though; that just means I’ve been back in the states for too long… Intern in Costa Rica anyone??
Andrea Giffin is a senior communications major and a sociology minor. She studied abroad in Florence, Italy in spring 2014. Follow her fun and adventures on twitter @giffindor11.