There is a Welsh word that doesn’t really have an English (or Spanish) translation- hiraeth, which describes a type of homesickness for a home that is not quite yours, a longing for a time or setting that will never come again. Being back in New Jersey is comfortable and I am happy to be back with my family, but there is still a small part of me that is mentally still in Argentina. I cried in the airport when my flight began boarding. I looked out the window one last time at Argentina and thought about everything I have been through since my arrival in July. The person who got off the plane from Atlanta was completely different from the version of myself that left- now I am much stronger, self-assured, thoughtful individual. I cried not because I don’t think I will ever see Argentina again, but because this amazing experience and catalyzing event in my life will never be recreated. I cried not because I was sad to leave, but because I am incredibly grateful for such an incredible semester. I will always feel indebted and connected to this beautiful country that challenged and formed my conception of who I am as a person. It was here that I fell in love with myself.
It’s hard to answer the question “how was Argentina?” during small talk with family friends or relatives because my time there is so hard to describe in a few words. I went through such a range of emotions and had so many experiences that I still haven’t even processed- the same way that I needed to adjust to being in Argentina during the first few weeks, I need to adjust back to being in the US. On one hand, I want to talk for hours and hours about everything I saw, the people I met, where I travelled, everything I learned. On the other, I don’t know where to begin or how to put the words together to sufficiently describe it all. Some of these memories I selfishly want to keep to for me, and me alone.
I’m excited to come back to William and Mary after being away all semester- I transferred to the College last year, and spent my first year on campus feeling like an outsider, not quite yet integrated into the campus. Ironically enough, studying abroad made me feel more a part of the William and Mary community than I did my first year on campus. The friendships I made with some of the other William and Mary students are some of my most treasured relationships, a group of friends intimately linked from the shared growth we all went through in La Plata. It’s amazing to think I didn’t know any of them before coming to La Plata- now I wear ¼ of an Argentine peso around my neck, shared with three other friends I can’t imagine life at William and Mary without.
Now, I need to find the best way to integrate the new perspective I gained in Argentina into my life in the United States- as a William and Mary student, and as a US citizen. It will be difficult and frustrating at times (I’ve already had my share of tough moments in my three full days at home), but I’ve risen to challenges a lot scarier before.