I’ve been on campus for five weeks now, and I’m still in the process of readjusting to American college life. Like, I don’t regret my year abroad—hopefully, I never will—but being officially back on campus has stirred up a lot of bittersweet sentiments. Eight months is a long time to be gone, and I’ve learned that there are new people I need to meet, new technology I have to get acclimated to, old habits I need to pick back up. Sometimes someone mentions something that I’m probably supposed to remember, and my reaction ends up being either “Uh huh” or “…What?”
And that’s just the tip of the iceberg:
- Food. At least I have a bit of freedom, since I have a kitchen, but I’m going to have to get used to sad campus food. However, after a year of cooking my own meals, I’ve learned to appreciate the convenience of the Commons and dining hall.
- Textbooks. What do you mean, I have to spend money on those?
- People. Most of my day is spent going, “Do I know you? Should I know you? Were you here before, or have I just never seen your face?” But the best part of being back is that my friends are either right here in the apartment, or five minutes away, max.
- Plants. There’s just so much green. Where’s the blue? Where’s the sea? (Sometimes, when I look out the window, I half expect to see the Mediterranean—except my window view consists of woods and the occasional feral cat.)
- Homework. A full college load is going to be loads of fun after extremely minimal homework. Not to mention the constant studying. What free time?
- Space. Sometimes, I notice how much more open space there is in Ashland versus Nice, and the thought makes me uncomfortable—I don’t know, I just like having narrow streets lined with buildings and fruit stalls and bikes.
- Cars. I miss being able to rely on public transportation. Now, I have to rely on the good graces of my friends.
- Work. It’s an odd feeling, working as a tutor again—there are some aspects that I’ve missed, and some that I never did.
- Tests. I grew used to having two or more hours for tests, so I never worried about time limits in France. But three out of my four classes are only an hour long, and as the kind of person who will go pages over a length requirement, it’s hard for me to adjust by shortening my answers and keeping an eye on the time.
- Confusion. Am I a junior or senior? We just don’t know.
- Weather. I consider the 60s cold now, just because Nice didn’t really get 60-degree weather until November. Don’t ask how I’m going to survive the winter.
- Language. Sometimes I find myself thinking in French, which feels a bit strange, but hopefully indicates that I’m working my way to some level of fluency. Also, sometimes I find myself trying to spell words the French way, which doesn’t exactly work out for my non-French classes.