Former Fulbright reflects on time in America

What comes to your mind when you hear the word “salt”? To me, It’s the smell of the Mediterranean that I see every time I look outside my window. I’m home.

I can hardly believe that last year has actually happened… and that now it is over. The moment I entered my house, everything that took place in the US seemed so far away, as though it’s all been just a distant dream that I’m having some trouble remembering its details.

All the old habits came back to me almost instantly. As soon as I sat on my favorite chair at home, I absent mindedly pulled out a book from a shelf beside me and started reading. It hit me that I haven’t done so for an entire year, yet I did it as if I had done it yesterday.

I was feeling unsure about driving again in the crazy traffic of Alexandria. I feared that I wouldn’t be able to drive well; that I have lost my skills. I was wrong. When I finally decided to face my fears three days after my arrival, I was surprised. As soon as I got in the car and started the engines, I automatically adjusted the seat, the rear mirror and the side mirrors, and I was out on the road driving like a mad taxi driver who has spent half their life behind the steering wheel.

I’ve read about reverse cultural shock. It is the shock that one gets when they go back to their home countries after they had spent a long time abroad. I expected it to be a bit challenging to adopt back. With fresh eyes and ears, I noticed how loud and disorganized Alexandria is. None of these things shocked me though. What did shock me was that I didn’t have any trouble fitting in again. I found I teaching job a couple of weeks after my arrival. Life was back to normal in a terrifyingly scary speed.

Change and growth are things I’ve strived for when I decided to have my Fulbright experience. I have changed in the year I spent in the U.S., but I realized that this change would not simply surface in my day to day life back home. People and environment influence my reactions greatly.

At Allegheny College, I was offered advice, assistance, and most important of all, opportunities. It was easy to try new things and explore. Additionally, traveling around the country was something everyone did, so I naturally did the same. Back home, I am not an undergraduate student anymore, so opportunities and guidance are not something that I can easily find. I have to seek them, and it has proved to be a hard search sometimes. I also have to make conscious decisions about the way I want my life to change, and I have to expect that people surrounding me would be surprised and sometimes even resistant to the new decision I make. However, that is not even the hardest part. The greatest resistant to change was no one but myself. It feels very tempting sometimes to just give in and fall back to my old ways, habits and routine.

It is interesting how different people could be in two different surroundings.

Think of salt. Think about the way it looks and the way it tastes. You can have salt alone, but it would only make you feel nauseous. Add it to different dishes, and it would taste differently in each and everyone of them. People are very much like salt. They take their personality and their character wherever they go, but the outcome varies with every different surrounding. If they stay passive, nothing would really change.