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Feb 16

What It’s Like to Visit Home After a Year Abroad

As I leaned my heavy head on the glass window, the dry and weathered countryside streaming past, the effects of the extra strong IPA, two days of travel, and jet lag pressed down upon my eyelids with urgency while I struggled to keep them lifted. I was home.

Visiting home after a year abroad

As my dad drove us through the rolling hills of northern California, I stared out the window at all the familiar sights. After a year away, shouldn’t this feel different? I felt like I should be seeing everything with new eyes, like I should be reveling in what a changed person I was amongst my old surroundings. But, instead, I felt as if I’d never left. My life in Korea suddenly seemed like a strange blip in the radar–more like a realistic dream than anything I’d physically experienced.

Visiting home after a year abroad

Being home didn’t feel out of the ordinary; it felt normal, comfortable, easy. Then it occurred to me that that is what made being home different: life was suddenly so easy! I had forgotten what it felt like to be able to ask a simple question without playing a game of charades, or to go to a restaurant and know exactly what everything on the menu said. It was suddenly a novelty to be able to have a casual conversation with the person scanning my groceries, and at the ATM–my god!–people waited in lines and nobody shoved me out of their way!

Visiting home after a year abroad

As the weeks at home went by, little things caught my notice that I hadn’t expected. First? Toilet seat covers. I had forgotten all about them! And, for that matter, the guarantee of toilets and not a porcelain filled hole in the ground was actually a luxury. Another thing I relished was not always being the fattest person in a room. I know America has an obesity problem and I don’t condone it, but seeing so many varying shapes and sizes and curves was utterly refreshing. And boobs! Boobs everywhere! I’d grown so accustomed to the high collared shirts in Korea that the low cut tops everywhere actually caught me off guard. At first I found myself judging them, thinking how scandalous of her!, but then I remembered that the rules were different here and I probably wore the exact same thing a year ago.

Visiting home after a year abroad

One of my favorite aspects of being home was how polite and friendly everyone was. I know that many people in Korea are friendly and it’s simply the language barrier that prevents them from striking up a conversation with me, but it was so nice to have simple chats with strangers throughout my day. It felt good for someone to hold a door for me, and then for me to hold a door for another person and have that person say thank you. It was comforting to stand in line knowing I didn’t have to breathe down the neck of the person in front of me to fend off cutting adjummas.

Visiting home after a year abroad

Many expats talk about “reverse culture shock” and how so many things about being home suddenly bother them. They complain that they overhear the dumbest conversations and they realize just how stupid Americans are; I think there are stupid people everywhere, and it’s hilarious to at least be able to understand them. They say that our portions are too huge and no wonder America is so fat; but I love paying for one meal and knowing I’ll have leftovers for lunch tomorrow.

When I left America I was ready to get the hell out of there. I claimed to hate American culture and was convinced that our society is going down the drain. But living abroad for a year has given me a new appreciation for my home and made me realize that it’s not all bad. To be fair, the USA has a lot of problems, but what country is perfect? I suppose I do see my country with new eyes now, though not with the eyes I expected. I don’t know what the future holds or where I will spend my life living, but I do find myself proud to call my little corner of America home.

Visiting home after a year abroad

  • ksommerkamp

    I love this Kaleena. When returning home from a long time abroad you see your country / city with different eyes. I, too, experience this each time I return home – I see the things that are missing, the things I don’t like – but I also appreciate those things that makes Tenerife special much more than I used to while I was living there. This is why I tend to go hiking and to natural beaches whenever I’m back – I already have enough civilisation and people in London, so all I crave for is good weather and the outdoors :)

    • KaleenasKaleidoscope

      Yes, going hiking and to beaches were at the top of my list going home, too! This is my first time living in a cold climate and all this snowy, dreary weather is wearing on me… I don’t know how you survive in London where it’s always cold!

  • http://www.lifesajournee.com/ Elicia Shepard

    omg. The boob part!!!! SO TRUE. I couldn’t stop staring at boobs when we went back after 9 months in Korea. Ok, but seriously. I had almost forgotten what it was like to wear normal shirts again!!! Although in Korea I see many more butts hanging out than back home. We are from Wisconsin and I don’t feel like I have more of an appreciation for where we came from after living in Korea (because it’s freezing cold 8 months of the year with no mountains to hike or ocean to swim in) it did give me a deeper appreciation and love for our family members and people who love and support us SO much. I also had no clue how much I LOVE all of the food variety we have in America. I love the food back home and nothing compares in Korea (in my opinion) since I struggle with the raw fish and anything even remotely spicy. I also felt like life in America was exactly the same as we left it and people carried on with life/jobs even though we were gone life was going on as normal. Thanks for sharing… as an expat I agree. It was great to visit the states!!

    • KaleenasKaleidoscope

      Yes, I am seriously missing the variety of food! I actually really like Korean food but it gets boring because it’s always like the same 5 ingredients… And life definitely seemed pretty normal and unchanging back home, it was almost scary to think how easy it would be to just slip back into it all as if I’d never left!

  • http://www.everchangingscenery.com/ Catherine

    Ah, it must be so strange to be back home! Great that you’ve got a new found appreciation for the little things though :)

    • KaleenasKaleidoscope

      Yes it was a little bit strange but mostly wonderful! ;)