Returning home to Georgia, U.S.A after 13 months abroad was surreal. I spent 7 weeks in Kiev, Ukraine. And before that, I was an exchange student in Erlangen, Germany. During my 11-month stay in Germany, I didn’t visit home a single time.
I left behind a different reality in Europe and had a hard time suddenly slamming my brakes to match with the pace of life in a good ol’ suburban town.
The population of my hometown (Newnan, GA) is approximately 30,000 people, which is about the same as the number of undergraduates at my alma mater, Georgia State University. Although it has been a humbling experience to revisit my hometown, I do not feel that my roots are here, and it is quite clear that the suburban lifestyle of southern American towns, or at least this one, is too mundane for someone like me.
I no longer have the stresses that I had here as a teenager and I feel as if I am on a different level than other long-term residents… as if I am not defined by or confined to the old rumors. I see that my hometown is continually becoming more modern and more culturally diverse. But, I still have sympathy for the kids, who feel stuck here and have not had the chance to travel, or the chance to develop their beliefs at university.
It was hard coming back. Having conversations with family or old friends can be challenging. The best way to describe the scenario is Plato’s Allegory of a Cave. In other words, we limit reality to our perceptions. To become enlightened, it is necessary to see life outside of the cave. The cave represents the states of most human beings. Those who return to the cave and try to recount what they have experienced meet disbelief from those who have not left the cave. We need more than just the naming of things; we also need reflective understanding. Travelling and learning foreign languages allow us to grow past only seeing the shadows in the cave.
I am still learning languages and working on a few small projects until my “medium-size” projects take off—I am looking for local internships and work while continuing plans of travel in the States. And my “big project” is getting accepted into grad school.
A few days passed, and I was no longer waking at 4 in the morning. I guess it’s also not so bad being around people who really know you and not just the exchange student version of you… with friends who have not just seen how you’ve bloomed, but friends, who also know the “Georgia Red Clay” that you grew in and how your branches developed.
Mr. Braddock: Have you thought about graduate school?
Mr. Braddock: Would you mind telling me then what those four years of college were for? What was the point of all that hard work?
Hello there! Glad to have you on my blog=) If you are here for the first time, I’ll give a short introduction about the blog and myself:
This blog started as a project for my online coursework while I was studying abroad as a German language major in Erlangen, Germany. It has grown into something much bigger. I have articles on German culture, sightseeing in Germany, learning foreign languages, travelling Europe, tips for studying abroad in Germany as well as several articles about self-development and my personal journey.
This post is based on a journal entry from May this year (2018), which I wrote after I had officially graduated, but was still completing the second-half of my study abroad. It will be more personal than most of my other posts. At the time that I wrote it and, especially the next month, I experienced a certain life-anxiety.
Mr. Braddock: Ben, what are you doing? Benjamin: Well, I would say that I’m just drifting. Here in the pool. Mr. Braddock: Why? Benjamin: Well, it’s very comfortable just to drift here. Mr. Braddock: Have you thought about graduate school? Benjamin: No. Mr. Braddock: Would you mind telling me then what those four years of college were for? What was the point of all that hard work? Benjamin: You got me.
“Life-anxiety” for me was an ambiguous feeling from not having the structure that university gave me and from being uncertain about the next plans and not knowing the meaning of it all.
I wasn’t feeling negative. I was actually quite positive, but I had so many goals along with the feeling that time is so limited. I am a person who believes “life is too short to not take it serious enough” rather than the relaxed “to take it too serious.” I don’t mean worrying about the little details, but rather having a direction and pursuing your dreams.
On the other hand, I think it’s not necessarily bad to not have it all figured out because we are able to discover new things and can go on a journey to let our intuition guide us to what we really want and need. Thinking about our future is also important because without goals or reasons to do something, we may end up unhappy or just breezing through at a job that we don’t enjoy, that doesn’t challenge us or add meaning to our life.
Graduating from high school is also a big change. By my junior year of high school, I realized that I would soon be free of school obligations and it meant that I was no longer a teenager, but a young adult. Graduating from university is much different than high school. High school was the start to university. (And for some work, love, marriage and kids.) This feeling of freedom after graduating university is well… as Janis Joplin said, “freedom’s just another word for nothing left to lose.” It’s heavy. It’s great to have accomplished something, but being finished is also bittersweet. University encourages you to contemplate the universe and your purpose on earth and finishing university from abroad was almost as if the world decided to eat me and spit me out again. The weight of the world was on my shoulders.
But don’t let this intro intimidate you, here are the many different thoughts I had about graduating American university from abroad:
Before we get started, I want to say: I am no longer feeling like I did during spring. I have goals but no definite plans, but I am working on different things. As far as what my next official plans will be, well, you’ll just have to stay tuned.
9 Thoughts About Graduating American Uni from Abroad
I am glad that I no longer have to do online classes. While my marks turned out fine, I didn’t get the usual interaction I would have when visiting a normal course at my university. I got a taste of the courses, but not the full thing, so my motivation wasn’t the same.. it just felt like busy work.
I loved my home university. I knew my place there by my third year and spent my fourth year in Germany. So, I am a bit sad to leave it behind. Sad that I couldn’t have done more there as well.
Being abroad makes me feel much different about graduation. After doing an exchange for 8 months abroad, not having cap-and-gown photos made and not going through the whole process with everyone, I’m definitely not experiencing the typical celebrations and worries.
It’s also different because my Russian studies are finally starting off and I’ve started doing new things like French, travelling more, reading more, etc. In other words, I’m busy with new avenues and not just focused on being done with my home university.
I feel proud and excited that I’ve finished university. I have a degree, great grades, honors, and other experience alongside the studies as well.
I’m happier now that I have started working on grad school applications and preparations.
In general, it’s still hard to believe that time went by so fast and many things just fell into place—it wasn’t a plan I had made years before I began uni. My studies found me.
I’m stuck in some weird existential-crisis-zone. There’s capitalism of the 21st century vs. experiencing life vs. my true passion vs. adult life and so on.
I am also looking forward to being “free” from university and paperwork as an (almost) expat in Germany and returning to USA. I’m coming back with many interesting experiences behind me and to friends and family who miss me. When I return, I’ll still be busy with a few things and I’ll definitely still be learning, but I want to use the time for myself and to travel the States. It will be interesting to see whether I will feel as free as I do abroad or if I will just feel out of place.
How did you feel after your graduated? Have you experienced a similar feeling?~Stephanie F.