Luther students reflect on time abroad

Kristen Wuerl, Staff Writer

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Adjusting to life in a new country is a culture shock for many people who study abroad. An aspect of study abroad that is often left out is the very kast part: coming home. As Luther students return to campus for fall semester, those who studied abroad last year are facing unique challenges re-adjusting to life at Luther College, as well as in the United States. Marcella Meza (‘18) felt this reverse culture shock when returning to Luther after her year-long study abroad experience in Nottingham, England.

“You feel brand new [upon return], but you’re also expected to be a senior mentor that should have the ropes on everything at this point in your life,” Meza said. “A large part of Luther is feeling like you belong in the community, but when you come back and don’t know 50 percent of [the people] on campus, you feel really foreign. It’s really weird.”

Other students who studied abroad during the 2016-17 school year shared Meza’s disorientation. Cecilia Mitchell (‘18) traveled to Malta last spring and said that returning home posed challenges for her.

“I really missed Malta when I came back,” Mitchell said. “It was tough going from having so much independence in Malta and then the lack thereof back home.”

Mitchell also struggled with her new social dynamics on campus.

“The 12 of us got really close [in Malta], but we’re not really in the same friend groups [on campus],” Mitchell said. “Seeing them on campus is weird because I know them really well but they don’t know my friends, and my friends don’t know them. Assimilating back to my friend group and people that were on campus all year and not abroad with me was definitely hard.”

Billy Jeide (‘18), a student who had a very full six months of non-American student life, was eager to return to Luther to see his friends. This past spring he studied abroad in Argentina, Paraguay, Uruguay, and Brazil. Immediately following that, Jeide spent the summer in Norway as part of the Peace Scholars program. His study abroad experience in the spring was crafted to his academic interests through an outside agency, unlike the Malta semester and Nottingham year which have deep Luther roots. Besides his summer in Norway alongside another Luther student, Bakhita Goncalves Soares (‘18), Jeide was with non-Luther students.

“All my closest friends these days are at Luther,” Jeide said. “I could unpack my experiences more easily with them than I could with some of my friends back home [Minnesota]. Friends and a routine have been really good with reintegrating back to Luther and resettling myself.”

Although it was easy for him to reconnect with his friends, Jeide had trouble returning to a campus with new faces and without friends who graduated in the spring.

“I don’t know half the people who go here,” Jeide said. “Also coming back [after being gone in the spring] means there are some people who graduated, and that’s a change, too.”

Jeide and Mitchell both noted that the Center for Global Learning (CGL) maintained contact with them while studying abroad. According to Mitchell, having a Luther professor on the Malta trip helped her stay connected with Luther as well. Despite this, Meza, Mitchell, and Jeide agree that they did not miss life on campus or in the United States.

“I think if you spend too much time thinking about what’s going on somewhere else, you’re never really in the moment,” Jeide said.

Meza shared Jeide’s appreciation for being present.

“I was with amazing people all the time [when I was abroad], and we were doing awesome things that I never thought I’d see or do,” Meza said. “Being abroad helped me detach from Luther a lot, and I let go for a year. I wanted to live every moment that I was there, and I felt like I did.” 

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