Besides air conditioning, a nearby gym and perhaps my kitchen, I honestly did not miss anything about America while in Croatia. I did feel as though I needed a “de-briefing” upon my re-entry. I started missing Europe as soon as I left it. Traveling abroad made me recognize many blessings here that I take for granted but it also made me realize a lot of things I question about our culture.
Out of the top ten reentry challenges, I would defiantly say that “reverse homesickness” is the feeling I’ve encountered most. We all forged such deep and meaningful friendships while abroad and to go from enjoying the companionship of those friends 24-7 to strictly conversing oceans away by Facebook is a very difficult thing to come to terms with. The students and faculty at FOI were incredibly welcoming and gave us attention I felt in no way worthy of. The experience was above and beyond anything I could have imagined; from day trips to the Adriatic coast and exploring cemeteries to organizing salsa parties and morning trail runs, the Croatians did everything possible to make our stay a life changing experience.
During my stay in Europe, I was struck by how environmentally conscious they were. Everyone walks and rides bikes instead of relying on cars, the crime rate was incredibly low and the water quality was far superior to what we have at home. The food was actually made fresh instead of defrosted, and everything just seemed so much more real. It was hard to come back to freezer food restaurants, polluted water and an area not conducive to foot traffic.
Also, the students in Croatia seemed to really take their education seriously and somehow still find time to know a hundred other topics and balance a social life as well. Watching these students spout off three different languages, excel in social and academic life and tell me more about my own country’s history than even I knew, made me feel that perhaps I and other American students have missed something that these students have grasped. During our time in Croatia, we enjoyed every day rather than just existing to successively meet deadlines and go through the motions. This trip helped me reaffirm that international travel is something I want to be an integral part of my future. In the meantime I hope to implement the “seize the moment” mentality and environmentally conscious behaviors that I learned in Croatia. I’m back in America but still dreaming of Europe….