“If you were a superhero, what would your superpowers be?”
That was a question I was once asked in an interview. I was caught off guard by the question, considering what I was applying for had nothing to do with superheroes. I started to think about who my favorite superhero was, hoping to get quick inspiration. There are many Marvel and DC Comics movies that have come out in the past several years that even if you do not follow the comics, you are bound to know of at least some of the superheroes. One really famous group of superheroes is known as The Avengers, consisting of Iron-Man, Thor, Hulk, and Captain America. Thor has been a favorite of mine since the movie came out five years ago. At one point, I would have said that I wanted to have his abilities. However, I ended up being more like someone else.
I came to the harsh realization that time does not stop while you are away. I first realized this when I came home for my first break during my freshman year of college. Somehow I thought that life had stopped for everyone else while I was gone, and that everything would be the same when I came back. While things did not change dramatically, people did change. They had new haircuts, new jobs, and other details that didn’t match up from before I had left. At that point, I had only been away for a couple of months. A couple of years later, I went to Europe to study abroad for seven months. Coming home, even between that period for a short amount of time, made me feel like Captain America waking up from being encased in ice and seeing the modern world around him for the first time in years.
Your study abroad experience doesn’t only affect you. You are learning, growing, and changing just like everyone you are looking forward to seeing again. Your trip affects your family. You may get to talk to them every once in a while through Skype or Whatsapp, but they may not tell you everything until you come back for the sake of wanting you to make the most of your time away and enjoy your trip. What happens at home may stay at home until you return there. For some families, it is harder on them to see their child go away for a longer period of time than other families. Everybody is different. It does not mean that they are not happy for you, or that they want to keep secrets from you, or that they want to get rid of you.
Your trip affects your friendships. You may get to talk to them on Skype or FaceTime once in a while. You may be sending them long-distance text messages, but long distance relationships are different and require more time and effort to uphold. Maybe your friends are going abroad at the same time as you but to a different place. Maybe you’re only going away for one semester and you realize that time moves very quickly. Your friends will still have to live their life without you and you without them in it. It may be temporary, but in a given semester, you guys can end up really connecting with other students, be it in your program or with locals. It took me seconds to make some of the lasting friendships I made while I was away, and I was not surprised to see that my friends also really connected with others. When you get back, it may be harder to come to the realization that things have changed, whether it is the dynamic of the circle of friends you hang out with, or if you don’t find out about one of your friends transferring schools until you are already back at school.
There will always be adjustments to make when returning from being away from a place for an extended period of time. Adjustments can be minor to the point where you feel like you are picking up right where you left off. Adjustments can be major to the point where you realize you cannot readjust on your own. That is where I encourage you to communicate with those you love. Be honest about your feelings and tell them that you are having a difficult time readjusting. That way, you do not have to walk through those feelings alone, nor have any misunderstandings, and you can come out of this difficult time even stronger.