I found it nearly impossible to formulate my experience into words. Do people understand the magnitude of the impact that going abroad had on me? Doubtful. They ask, “How was your trip?” I respond with: “It was so amazing. I had a great time.” Then that is the end of our conversation. I don’t know if anyone around me can tell the difference either, but I have noticed a change within myself.
One week after getting home from Italy, I was back at the Indianapolis airport headed for a second adventure: an internship in the Silicon Valley of California. Just like in Rome, here I would be switching time zones, going to an area where I did not know a soul, living with complete strangers, and having no access to a car. Unlike when I was leaving for Rome, however, I was not a bit concerned or nervous. Compared to Rome, where I did not speak the language and did not have data on my phone (so no Google Maps when I got lost)… California would be a piece of cake.
A few days into my stay in California, I realized that it was not as easy as I thought it’d be. It took me 50 minutes to get to work, which was just three miles away, through a combination of walking and public transportation. I finally caved and went out and bought a cheap Target bike, but it still took me thirty minutes to get to work, and I had to bike along a busy street (quite scary). Unlike in Rome where housing was assigned to us and I had roommates my own age, here I am renting a room and living with a 40-year-old man, a 55-year-old woman, another summer intern, and three dogs (I am not a dog person). I have not yet really gotten to know any of the other interns very well, so I spent my first two weekends here alone. Had this happened to me last year, I would have probably broke down. Not that I enjoy spending weekends alone or riding my bike three miles in 80 degree heat to work…but I haven’t really thought much about it. Prior to going abroad, I was the polar opposite of “laid back.” It takes time and patience to get used to changes and to make a home out of somewhere new, and being abroad helped me to develop the skills necessary to adapt to these changes.