Kayla Sides is an official CAPA blogger for fall 2016, sharing her story in weekly posts on CAPA World. A psychology major, she is studying abroad in Florence this semester through the custom program at Norco College.
In this week's post, Kayla shares her thoughts on returning to California after a semester in Italy.
After three months abroad, I left my home in Italy and came back to my home in California. It’s crazy to think how much change three months away can mean. I’m going to be completely honest with you, I experienced a very small amount of culture shock when I first arrived in Florence. Although things were different there, I was so excited to be there that I really didn’t mind. I welcomed everything with open arms and found myself enjoying a lot of the differences rather than finding them uncomfortable. Coming back to Cali was a bit different. Aside from the jet-lag, I found there was a lot to adjust to. Think about it: you spend the last three months adjusting to the Italian way of life and essentially make it your own. Right when everything becomes natural to you, you have to go back and reverse the whole process. That’s a lot!
For example, as soon as I got back to the States, I was either driving a car or being driven. I can easily say when I first got in a car, I got nauseous and had to stick my head out of the window like a dog. We don’t use cars in the center of Florence! We walk EVERYWHERE. Everything there was so conveniently placed and in close proximity to… well, everything. If you were hungry at two in the morning, you could walk a block or less and chow down on freshly made food. If you were bored, you could walk half a mile in any direction and find yourself at a piazza, a church, or the river OR you could get distracted on the way there by some street performers. Here in Norco, California, well, you walk a few miles in any direction and you’ll get dirt, cows, and tumbleweeds. If you’re hungry at two in the morning, your only choices are your own food or greasy, 24-hour fast food. Yuuuuum. But let’s be honest, walking is not the preferred mode of transportation here. You gotta drive. But driving needs gas. And gas costs money. No one likes spending money. We didn’t have this dilemma in Italy!
A few “WOAH” moments:
For the first time ever, I think, I’ve been one of the slower walkers here. Before Italy, I was a natural speedwalker. Now, I notice how fast-paced everyone is, with their coffee in their hands and the feet moving a mile-a-minute.
It took me awhile to process the fact that rarely anyone was wearing Adidas. Yup. Freaked me out a bit.
I bought some make up, and the price I paid was more than the price tag. One word: tax. *insert crying emoji*
I got my usual Starbucks drink right when I saw the green siren symbol – Venti Mocha Latte. OH. MY. GOODNESS. Guys. I could not finish that drink. Not only was the size of the drink the size of my face, but it was so sweet! The weird thing is that this was my usual drink. Now, I’m used to a teacup of espresso and a teeny-tiny bit of milk and foam. So, the next time, I ordered a doppio espresso, nothing else, for the first time ever in the United States. I never thought I would do that, but hey, Italy changes you.
I walked into my bathroom and freaked out because I thought it doubled in size but really, the bathroom I’ve been using in Italy was about a quarter of it.
I didn’t know what to do when a stranger smiled at me. At first I thought, why is this random person who I do not know smiling at me. But then I remembered that yes, Americans are very open and friendly and it is normal to smile and talk to strangers.
THERE AREN’T ANY FREE-ROAMING DOGS AND I WAS SO DISAPPOINTED WHEN I WALKED IN RESTAURANTS AND CAFES AND DIDN’T SEE ANY DOGS. But it’s okay, because I’m reunited with my doggie (:
So, yeah. Things that were normal to me are now a bit odd because what used to be foreign is now normal! You would think that going back home is going to be extremely easy, and it is for some people, but for others, it’s a lot harder to get back into the groove of things. And quite honestly, I think reverse culture shock stems directly from what you believe an idealized version of home is. This isn’t because one country is better than the other. I believe people go through this because they had the best time of their lives and at one point or another, they thought it would never end. At least, that’s what happened in my case. I never expected anything like that (study abroad/travel) to happen to me, so quickly. That was all but a dream until this semester. It was a dream come true.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not disappointed to be home. Yes, I miss Florence and my life there. But, I’m happy to be back home with my doggies and my family. I’m even more happy to have the memories of study abroad in my heart and the chance to share that experience with them. There are positives and negatives no matter where you go. I realize that now. I know now that my heart lives in two places. One half is here while the other is across the globe. Oh wow, I am so so SO grateful to be able to say that.
Kayla's journey continues every Wednesday so stay tuned.