Coming back the U.S was not exactly the parade of glory a self-proclaimed traveler such as myself would have expected. Despite receiving the red carpet warm welcome of the O’Hare terminal 5 McDonald’s, and a long in-depth interview with a Homeland Security Officer, I felt a bit off coming back.
I went straight from Istanbul to Evanston to be back for the first week of classes. I initially decided to do this so that I could spend as much time as I possibly could in Turkey without it conflicting with NU’s schedule. And while I certainly don’t regret it, it certainly wasn’t a walk in the Gezi Park. Having no time to rewind is quite taxing, going directly from one overwhelming environment to another. And especially having to readjust to NU’s demanding curriculum wasn’t easy. Long gone are the days where I would have two hour çay breaks everyday while discussing the etymology of çay with fellow çay historians.
Call it “reverse culture shock” or whatever, but being away for so long changed many things in the once familiar bubble of Northwestern. Contact with certain acquaintances tapered off a bit, while at the same time I found myself more in tune with some new faces. At first you feel a little out of place, like you went back to high school and started taking classes again. But over time, these feelings fade, and a bit of normalcy is reestablished, albeit in a slightly different context.
Exchange was great in so many different ways. But exchange is a two way street, a street that runs in two directions. There are two exchange students currently at NU from Koç for winter and spring quarter who I’ve met. I feel oddly obliged to help them out, considering the amount of help I received from Koç students when I was in Istanbul. Helping them is also for me, I can kind of live the exchange experience vicariously through them.