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Thomas: Reverse Culture Shock

January 4, 2012

It has been over two weeks since I returned from my adventures in South America. It’s been hard to analyze my feelings and emotions since re-entering the United States. Two words describe how life has been during the first two weeks back in my hometown, surreal and stressful.

I arrived at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport at about 10:30 am on a Saturday to my eldest sister and niece waiting for me near my baggage claim. Their timing was impeccable. It was good to see familiar faces. Waiting in the van were my sister’s neighbors and good friends who tagged along to keep my sister company on the 2.5 hour car ride to the airport. I was very happy as we left the airport, but everything felt much like a dream. Our first stop after the airport: IKEA. Though not the most ideal “first stop” after getting off the plane, I managed to cope and just enjoy looking at the trendy Swedish furniture and random household nicknacks. My first meal after returning from abroad, Swedish meatballs and potatoes.

The surreal feeling continued throughout the next couple of days. It was strange to meet up with family and see some friends again, although most of my friends who are my age were still in school. The quietness and slow pace of my hometown, along with the farm I grew up was a hard change from the high-speed, always busy streets of Buenos Aires. And even though the weather in Minnesota is a bit “warmer” for December at about 30-40 degrees (F), only now am I getting used to the change from the constant 70+ degrees I left in Buenos Aires.

About three or four days after I got back to the U.S. the physical signs of stress started to emerge. My lips began to tingle and soon, over a 24 hour period broke out into sores. Never has that happened to me before. It was a strange and very uncomfortable phenomenon. It has taken about a week and a half and a lot of medication for them to fully heal. An informal doctor visit claimed it was likely a stress related breakout.

Remembering how to live in Minnesota again has been an interesting and fun experience. I had to learn how to drive again. Getting behind the wheel felt foreign and unnatural at first, but like riding a bicycle you never truly forget. After a few miles on the road, driving felt routine again. Simple differences weren’t that difficult to re-adapt to, but it is always fun to remember the differences in the way of life of Porteños to the way Minnesotans go about simple tasks. I always feel the need to point out the differences to friends or family. I wonder if they are getting annoyed yet.

It’s now fun to speak Spanish! I think my family is getting annoyed by me saying some things in Spanish and then English. When at first I speak Spanish, the dumbfounded reaction on their faces is priceless and quite amusing. Over time, I’ve become accustomed to all-English, but I really hate losing the little Spanish I already know well. I am currently on the wait-list for the only Spanish 1004 class that fits into my busy class schedule at the U of M this Spring.

It is so great to be back in the country I love and to see the people that I missed so dearly. My experiences in South America were absolutely incredible and I do not regret anything. As a matter of fact, I enjoyed it so much that it is really hard to talk about my experiences to others. Many ask how my time in Argentina was, but it’s almost impossible to answer in a sound-bite or a couple minute conversation. I usually ask, how much time do you have? I couldn’t talk about my experiences in minutes, but rather in hours.

Thank you all for reading my thoughts and experiences while abroad. It has been really helpful to write about everything and will be nice to look back on as time moves forward. I hope everyone had a happy and healthy 2011 and hope the new year is even better. Happy 2012 to all!

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