After moving into my first apartment, I looked outside my window and stared down at the Northwestern University sign at the intersection of Clark and Chicago Ave. I felt overwhelmed. I felt giddy. I felt like a freshman. I know I only left for a quarter, I mean it’s only 11 weeks, but Northwestern seemed so unfamiliar. Academic life with four classes a quarter, apartment parties with large groups of friends, buying groceries and figuring out how to cook, not taking a metro…they all seemed strange.
I knew I would “change” …or at least that’s what everyone told me before going to Paris. I’ve noticed changes in how I approach daily life. After living in Paris for 14 weeks, I’ve carried some of Paris back with me (I know it’s cheesy, but I didn’t know how else to describe it). I’ve accidentally spoken French to the cashier at Whole Foods, forgot I wasn’t 21 and can’t buy wine in America, and still have public transportation turned on for Google Maps. Like my homestay mom, I put butter in everything and make fish four times a week.
However, I didn’t expect NU, particularly the people, to change much. No one mentioned how NU changes too. NU is a quarter older. No one warned me that I won’t be a part of that change and that I will be lost and that I will need to catch up on all the news. There are new relationships, new friendships, and new tensions. I didn’t see any of them form, but rather, I just suddenly walked into all of it (and I mean literally “walked in” as I entered a Welcome Back Party).
As weird, for the lack of a better word, as everything seems the first few days back, it is also refreshing. For me, I’ve realized that there are many friends on campus with whom I just don’t “click” anymore. We might have been close friends at the end of last year, but now we just diverged. We might have still been close friends if I stayed on campus, but that’s something I will never know. On the other hand, in the past few days, I’ve met a few people who I wasn’t friends with before I left for Paris. I knew them before I left, but we just weren’t friends until this week—we converged. We might not be friends today if I stayed on campus, but, again, that’s something I will never know.
All I know is that going abroad has given me a new perspective on people, events, the campus…etc. It has allowed me to approach all these changes with a new lens, attitude, and energy.