Today, it’s been exactly a week since I’ve been home. The jet lag lasted all of three days, and then the post-travel depression began to set in. All but welcomed, it was expected.
Being home to see my family and all is great, I am glad I get to spend the holidays with them, I wouldn’t want it any other way, but there is just something about going back to some mundane life style after I spent three months living abroad, studying at a Univeristy with students from all over the world, and hopping on busses, planes, and trains every other weekend to travel somewhere new. In all of three months I’d visited four countries, two continents, and I’d met people from all over the world. But now, here I am, in the city I’ve lived my whole life, thinking what can I do to get back in the groove of things here? I’ve tried working on my resume, seeing friends I missed so much, went to get my job back, etc etc… I’ve passed my time mostly losing myself in books and movies, and cursing the higher education system of the U.S. for making it so difficult for me to continue on with what I thought would be a good career choice/lifestyle/way to make a living, before I went on this great adventure.
While studying abroad, I met so many students from Europe, who were taking a gap year, many younger than me, people who still had no idea what they were going to do the next year. I met students from Quebec who were just finishing up their two years in college, and were yet to move onto University, where they would pick their career. It wasn’t that the age difference to choose what they wanted to do, it was that they were given opportunities before they were forced into choosing. Now, I know, that we all say things like, “well i am a sophomore and still haven’t declared my major,” or “I took a couple years off before going to college to figure out what I was going to do.” But, that’s different. Nobody paved the path for me to go to Spain, I had to seek it out myself, pay $6,000 + dollars on top of tuition to study abroad, during a semester of college, where I lost that much time and credits, to have this opportunity, and I have come back to a trapped system of education, where I must continue the major I chose before this life-changing adventure, and if I don’t, well then two more years of education at a college where it cost $30,000/yr (and increasing). That’s all you have to do; is what most people would say, OR, my absolutely favorite, “well, that’s just the way it is.”
What I’d like to know, is who created the higher education system here?? Why do we pay, on average $15-20,000 more than any European or Canadian to go to college. Why do we break our bank AND our parents’ bank and why are we forced to take out $5,000+ loans/yr?? I don’t understand it, and it has just occured to me why it’s so hard to get a job. A lot of students are studying things they like, things they find an interest in, but some students are going to college because that’s what they have to do, or think they have to do. And at 18-23 yrs old, most of these students don’t have the opportunity (money/time) to explore the world, or other fields of study before they fatally decide they will spend four years, paying an arm and a leg, to study something they find mildly interesting. When they graduate, jobs are so hard to find, and they’re in so much debt, they begin taking what they can get, which often doesn’t pay much, isn’t in their field of study, or/and isn’t something they really enjoy either, and that folks is what we now call ‘the American dream.’
Before I left for Spain, a lot of people told me that Europeans didn’t much like Americans. Well, actually that most people didn’t like Americans. Some people told me that they’d had bad experiences abroad because they were Americans. Well, everyone I met in Spain who found out I was American, spoke to me in English because they wanted to practice with an American, they went on and on about how much they loved America, and often when they heard how good my Spanish was they praised me for having learned that much while only being there three months. In France, my friends and I got lost and they only way we found our apartment was because the nice French people went out of their way to give us directions, even if they barely knew any English. We got free pastries at the bakery we went to everyday, and in Portugal, everyone knew English and was more than happy to speak it to us! I never once, had a bad experience specifically because I was American. All of my friends while studying abroad were either from Europe, Japan, or Quebec, I barely had any American friends. And, a few of them even told us that we weren’t like most Americans. While traveling, I ran into ignorant, arrogant, and close-minded Americans, who I myself, might have been rude to if they’d approached me or treated me the way their attitudes were towards others. I guess my point is that, Americans sometimes think the world is wrong, and they are the only thing that’s right. We do most things differently, and to be honest, it just makes it harder for us Americans when we go abroad, not to mention we often look stupider! I mean why do we meausre using the metric system and farenheit, no one else does! I found that the world gets smaller and less exotic as you travel more, people aren’t really as mean as you think they’re going to be, but first you have to put yourself out there. Travel, and be nice, and don’t let those people telling you ‘French are so mean,’ stop you from going to Paris, chances are the people saying that have never been to France, or even talked to a French person! In fact, someone in France even said the French love Americans!
I suppose the frustration is setting in. I loved Europe a lot, not that I don’t love America. I missed the free water and bread, and I missed the midly cleaner restrooms, of course this is my home. But when I left Spain, it felt like leaving home, also. It felt like leaving my family, leaving a place that was so near and dear to my heart. I think people should open their eyes more. Now, that I’ve had that opportunity I know more from those three months than I would have, had I stayed in the US all year. I learned a lot about myself, and the world, things I will probably remember forever, things that will continue to grow for me. Now, I could change my mind about my career choice, like I kind of want to, I could change my choice of school, like I really want to, I could change where I live, like I want to do even more. But, I am going to stick it out, I’m not going to let this be the last of it though. I’m young and I want to travel more. Someday I want to go to school at a great place that won’t put me into $20,000 of debt when I’m done with it. I’d like to be a writer, whose able to write in several different languages, and I want to tell as many people as I can how much foreigners like Americans. And how much I like being in foreign places.
Before I went to Spain, I knew I loved to travel, like more than I love a lot of things. But now, I really love it, and I can’t wait to do more of it.
Until next time!