Hello again, Wildcats! For those of you who don’t know me, my name is Samantha Friedman. I am a senior/grad student political science major who just returned from studying abroad for a year at the London School of Economics and Political Science. A year ago from today, I was boarding a plan to start the adventure of a lifetime. I had no idea what to expect. I love UNH, and leaving it for a year was definitely a decision I struggled with. Looking back, I have absolutely no regrets. It was, hands down, the best year of my life. I learned so much about the world around me. Living in a foreign country allows you to broaden your horizons and have new experiences. Yet I never felt out of place, or like I didn’t belong. London is one of the best cities on Earth, with so much culture and history, it is hard not to fall in love with it (the accents help too).
Mostly, however, I learned a lot about myself. I made new friends, studied hard, and lived fully on my own. I gained a whole new sense of independence, and a taste of the “real world.” I will never forget the people I met, the places I visited, or the memories I made. I’m not the same person I was a year ago. I feel much more confident about myself and my abilities. While I’m not trying to navigate the tube or fight traffic in Picadilly Circus anymore, I’m still facing challenges that test my newly developed skills. I now know that I can handle anything life throws at me.
So how does that relate to being back at UNH? Well, I’m not going to lie to you; it’s a struggle. Ask any student who has returned from studying abroad, and they will tell you that “reverse culture shock” is in fact real. Everyone tells you how studying abroad will change your life. No one tells you how coming home will be a change too. Nothing seems the same as when you left, and in a sense, that’s very true. Downtown Durham traffic patterns have changed three times, there is suddenly a Subway next to Aroma Joes, and many buildings on campus are completely redone. As scary as it may seem, life went on without you. During my “reentry” phase, that has been the biggest challenge: learning to readjust to a world that I once knew so well.
But whomever said you can’t go home again clearly didn’t go to UNH (or have ever heard that Bon Jovi song). I have been welcomed back with open arms, and I am truly lucky to be able to return to a school that does feel like home. My friends and professors have been excited to see me and hear my stories, allowing me to keep my experiences alive. I also have friends from UNH that I got to spend time with in London, and I love to reminisce on our international adventures together. Plus, keeping in touch with the people I met, the ones who were there for those once-in-a-lifetime experiences, makes me feel that much closer to London.
I know I’m not the only one returning from study abroad this semester, so here is the best advice I can offer to those of you who are sharing in my struggle. When you come back, it’s okay to be upset about it (I still get teary eyed when I hear “God Save the Queen”). It’s okay to go through your old Facebook photos and read every Buzzfeed listicle there is on travelling (or at least, that’s what I tell myself). It’s like a bad break-up. Sometimes I just want to watch Notting Hill while eating Ben and Jerry’s and cry my eyes out. However, living in the moment is equally as important. I have so much to look forward to, and a whole new chapter of my life to start. I miss London terribly, but I’ll be back. Until then, there are plenty of hockey games to attend, iced coffees to drink, and HoCo cupcakes to consume. I am going to make the best of my time left here at UNH, and remind myself of all the people and places I didn’t want to leave in the first place.