Returning to American Suburbia

Dec 27, 2017 11:30:00 AM / by Irene Kanthan


Thaddeus is an official CAPA blogger for fall 2017, sharing his story in weekly posts on CAPA World. A BFA major at the University of Minnesota - Twin Cities, he is studying abroad in London this semester.

In his last post, Thaddeus flies back home and reflects on his study abroad experience in London.


On the 16th of December, I woke up in London knowing that my minutes left on the English isle were very few. I wasn't sad to leave the country, instead, I was sad to leave the memories behind that I have made during my time abroad.

CAPAStudyAbroad_London_Fall2017_From Thaddeus Kaszuba - Downtown Chicago Skyline as I prepare to land in the US after 5 Months.jpgA view of the Downtown Chicago skyline as I return to the U.S. after 5 months abroad.

I said goodbye to my friends from other universities that I had met during my time at CAPA, and slowly tread down the escalator for the rather long Picadilly Line tube ride to London Heathrow.

As an American student, I will never be able to express the full value of how much exploring Europe has meant to me. While that is a statement that I am sure many CAPA students will carry with them as they journey home, I feel as though the wonder and awe of this experience are locked away in a special place in all of our hearts.

I did what little sightseeing I could through the plane window as I took off from London for a layover in Dublin. In the back of my head, a little voice kept telling me that I would be back again.

When I finally landed in Chicago in the United States, only late afternoon central time, I stepped off of the plane in a bit of a daze. I feel that our bodies react to traveling different distances and geographical locations, especially on planes where it can feel as though you were teleported to a new world.

CAPAStudyAbroad_London_Fall2017_From Thaddeus Kaszuba - American Suburbia as I Write from My Room.jpgA view of American suburbia as I write in my room.

When I returned home, I understood that I was back in a familiar place, but now I had a more attentive perspective on how Americans carry themselves in pedestrian life. I was initially shocked after seeing so many football jerseys, baseball caps, and of course all of our cars driving on the right side of the road.

Of course, there was the occasional jab from family, "Welcome back to Trumpland!" They made it sound like it was an amusement park. In a way, that's how the United States can feel. At home, I constantly find myself driving to popup strip malls and through mega superstores. "One-stop shops" if you will.

Returning to this type of culture has made me appreciate the architecture and physical relation people have to their city or hometown. Everything has a reason for being in its place, from superstores to city hall buildings. Europe through the ages has only had so much space to thrive within. The difference I have found back home is a breach or misuse of our space. Many Americans have an innocent expansionist mindset. I sometimes get annoyed by how to spread out everything can be, and that individually you have to invest in a car or form of transportation for basic needs.

This is a huge benefit to living in a large and diverse city such as London. The logic of the layout.

While London has different forms of architecture and can be rather topsy-turvy in its infrastructure, everything is still extremely accessible for any standard of living.

CAPAStudyAbroad_London_Fall2017_From Thaddeus Kaszuba - Reuniting with my Dog.jpgReuniting with my dog.

While there are few ways to change our current infrastructure as a country, I have surely become more aware of the flaws and advantages of how we interact with American suburbia and our commercial (capitalist) culture.

I do admire that I no longer need a power converter. That's a plus.

I would like to write for a moment to any students considering studying abroad during their time in college. My short answer: do it.

I completely understand that studying abroad is extremely expensive, college overall is a dent in our financial futures as young citizens. However, while it was a requirement for my degree program to take a semester abroad, it is still is an experience and accomplishment that can aid students in both personal growth and career goals. Having the opportunity to experience other cultures and walkabout in a foreign town or city allowed me to reflect heavily on what I value and perhaps take for granted as a United States citizen. There is so much to be learned about how to respect and educate yourself through other cultures.

This experience can possibly help calm your own personal biases about other cultures, as well as give you a strong independence with being away from home. While a semester abroad can look like a vacation, I can vouch that it is everything but relaxation and comfortability. Rather the experience is about challenging yourself to meet new people and create a better global perspective for yourself, so that you can solve problems from the smallest things in day to day life, to the bigger questions about our social, political, and economic state in our home country. It's helpful to get out of the university setting and allowing a new country to be your classroom.

CAPAStudyAbroad_London_Fall2017_From Thaddeus Kaszuba - View of St. Paul's Cathedral from Suspended Bridge over Thames.jpg

I will miss London and Europe as a whole. This experience has shaped my perspective about how I am currently developing my life and career. I feel more determined, grounded, and confident now that I have returned with the experiences I have had, and would not trade this experience for the world.

(Well I would trade it for EU citizenship).

Thank you for reading. Happy holidays, and to my friends from CAPA, you are dearly missed in my heart.

Thanks Thaddeus!

See more of Thaddeus's journey in London.

Learn More about the CAPA London Program

Topics: London, England, Life After Study Abroad, Reflection