It has been exactly (however many days) since I’ve been back in America. I know that I did a horrible job of blogging the second part of my exchange, but you have to understand at least where I was and where I was coming from in order to fail at my blogging responsibilities. To clear that quickly I will just say that as a foreign exchange student, you get to this point in your year when everything around you transfigures itself from a different universe to the normal reality you think you’ve always known, defeating your mental justification for needing a blog.
As much as it would be interesting for you to hear about the second part of my year, I can now only write about the life I’ve lived and hope to live since I’ve returned.
Upon return, I have to say that it was an extreme reverse culture shock for me. I didn’t know where I was, why I was there, or how I got there (even after an 18 hour return). In many ways I internally panicked, but holistically did my best to look excited to be back for the people who had been awaiting my return for 365 days. It was weird to say the least; everything was something I already knew, but somehow still something that I had never truly seen, or so I thought. In many ways, at the time, I felt as if I was returning to a world that I tried to leave behind, therefore making me feel as though I was reliving a nightmare that was permanently inescapable (which later became a matter of premature thinking).
It was just weird to be back. Here I am, living in a foreign country for a year, and all the time life continues on without me in the land that I knew my entire life, but somehow it seemed to change before my eyes in many aspects. I was extremely emotionally stressed the last couple of days that I had in Germany, so at that time my cultural identity, but more or less my cultural understanding, was in a jumble. Truly, what can one expect after committing to an experience that’s sole objective is to make you think another way? Arrival in America, shortly put, felt like an arrival on unknown soil: the beginning of another foreign exchange year.
As the time since I was in a foreign country slowly grew from days, to weeks, to months, the truth of the matter became apparent: no matter how hard I try to change it or blindly accept something different, I am an American. As this started to sink in, I started to really contemplate the role of the cultural identity that everyone takes on, but more importantly how we decide to interpret it. Living in a single town most of my life and then moving to a different country during one of the most important years of high school, I didn’t know where I stood: Am I American or am I something else? What do I define as a cultural identity? Who am I? What issues do I stand for in two different countries with two very differing political mindsets? What do I truly believe in? What is truth to me? Those questions were what were prominent in my mindset as I arrived back to America, answers still undefined.
The long explanatory paragraph (or rather, pages) about how I came back to where I was before I left, still with an impact on what I learned overseas, was when I began high school. For me, it’s weird to think that the establishment I wanted to get away from ended up teaching me the biggest lesson of my life. Sometimes the things we try to escape end up begin the things that we have the biggest lesson to learn from.
Jumping again from the awkward Summer phase to the beginning of the school year, I began to realize where I was: somewhere other than where I was for the past year. My point in making that oh-so apparent is that sometimes in life we’re somewhere other than where we wanted to be, intended to be, thought we would be, or planned to be: the reaction to where we are is entirely dependent on the personal choice of that individual as to how to react. Yes, it was hard being back in Nixa after an entire year of Berlin, in part of being on another side of the world I had never even realistically fathomed, but I wasn’t there anymore and wasn’t dealing with people who had experienced what I had experienced. As I started to work on understanding where I came from again, the first thought was, “Oh my God, I’m starting Senior year of high school.”
This thought process really brought me back to reality, in terms of that I’m not living the life I had, or rather the life that I THOUGHT I was still living back in the States. As I started to, how you say, “reculturize” myself to the ways I knew, I slowly realized how true many views I still had lined up with what I passionately thought about. This isn’t to say that throughout my entire year I was pretending to hold pseudo political views, just that cultural views vary nationally, personally, and politically no matter who you are when you change your cultural vantage point.
Jumping to what truly seems to be impacting me lately, I say that high school, since I’ve been back, has been nothing but a positive experience. My experience as an exchange student taught me more than how to live in a different culture; it taught me how to adapt yourself to live in whatever kind of society, culture, or group you decide to live in: how you adapt is your own decision in deciding how your future there is going to be . This thought process became very apparent to me after my first day back as a senior in high school.
Life is moving too fast for any of us. Life is full of one-shot chances. Life is full of “do or don’t” and the decision is ours. Life is a one time deal. I’m grateful to personally have a larger understanding of this eternal ordeal due to what I have experienced and the trials I’ve put myself through. In the past year, I’ve learned nothing but to appreciate the time we’ve been given and how every decision in life that we make impacts us, our surroundings, and how it impacts the next decision we make. When we compile the existence of one human-being, it’s daunting how short that book can be, but also hopeful how large and voluptuous it could be. My hopes are that everyone who reads this will realize how short we have on this Earth not to instill fear, but to recognize how proactive we should be on every issue we handle.
In closure, I say this to you: Never consider something too impossible to fathom. I know that sounds very cliche, but the truth is, we are all human no matter how people of distaste, false stature, and hatred try to divide us. We can all contribute to the advancement of societal thinking and it all depends on me and you; that is what makes society “society”. Never forget where you came from, your roots, where you want to go, how you got somewhere, or why you want to go somewhere: All of those things combined relate to one ideology that can hopefully advance our community and society. We are the people. We are the community. We are the society. We are the now. We are cosmopolitanism. No matter how unimportant you may see it as, our time to make a difference in the infinite society that will follow us is small. Make your change now and understand how you made it. Life is good. Life is what we make of it. Germany and my experiences there define an extremely large portion of my life, but I’m not going to let it define every aspect of my future. These experiences have defined how I will interpret my future, but not solely why or for what reason. My experiences leaves me nothing but a hunger for the things that still lay before me; those things are still waiting for me to find them. Life is grand, my friends. Don’t ever forget that. The people out there that you’ve met and will meet have/will change(d) your life, whether you want to admit it or not. Life is an amazing thing; understand the depth and immanence of the life we live and make it that much more beautiful.