Friday, May 29, 2009

Back to America

Study abroad advisors prepare students for the three phases of study abroad: One, honeymoon stage, "Oh how cute they drive on the other side of the road!" Two, bitterness and anger: "WTF, why do they do everything wrong and drive on the wrong side?" Three, acceptance, "I don't know why they do it, but I'll learn to look left...bloody hell." What they don't prepare you for is the last stage, the culture shock you experience in your home country.

I didn't think I'd have much of a problem adjusting to life in good ole' Detroit. I consider myself a pretty adaptable person. The trip home though set me straight.

The 12-hour plane ride from London to Chicago to Detroit wasn't a comfortable, reclining chair affair. I was sitting in my un-cushioned, blue chair that seemed to bend more forward than backward, with Vanity Fair and a pile of Cadbury eggs on my lap, trying to reason myself that going home to Detroit would be Ok and that London sucks, when Little Miss Alma College Sweatshirt with the worst Michigan accent I've ever heard hovers over me.

"You're gonna haave to move. I need to sit there," she said haughtily. 

I said nothing, moved, and gritted my teeth as Miss Alma pushed her way in, plopping her big behind right next to me and her Coach purse against my ankles. Here's America, ladies and gentlemen. I sat back in my forward chair, popped a Cadbury egg and turned on my iPod. Simon and Garfunkel's "America" came on. I tried not to cry, but an overwhelming desire to sob and punch Miss Alma came over me. America here I come.

The rest of the trip was spent playing Evil Eye Tag with Miss Alma as she didn't have any concept of personal space and would bonk, shove and elbow me the entire trip. I huddled to the edge of my uncomfortable chair for eight hours, in between defiantly taking over her arm rest.

I believe I cried 10 times on that trip. Three times during Bridewars, The Office episode when Jim finally asks Karen out on a date and in He's Just Not That Into You, because he just wasn't into got pathetic.

I felt removed from where I was going, apprehensive of landing and wishing I was back with Big Ben. 

Over the past week things have gotten much better, and I haven't cried during The Office since. Still, things are different. Being around Midwestern accents and Bob Evans is a bit jarring after hearing Colin Firth talkers for five months. 

Here are a few things I miss about the UK:

1. "Cheers." I miss hearing this after I bag my own groceries, pay for something, trip, wink, eat, whatever. It has such a nice ring to it.

2. Pounds. I don't miss the conversion rate, but I miss how regal their money looks. It's thick, unmistakably British, and you feel like a Brit carrying them around. 

3. Cadbury eggs. I love them. I think they are now appearing like tumors all over my body, but they taste good.

4. Public transportation. Double decker buses, efficient trains, cleanliness...ahh...

5. Cajun Squirrel Potato Chips, Chili and Chocolate Potato Chips and my favorite, Crispy Duck & Hoisin Flavour Potato Chips. Just kidding. But they are a great representative of English food. What will they think of next?

6. Strongbow. Hello, my name is Rosemary Lane and I am, addicted to Strongbow. It's amazing. Strongbow is a cheap, hard cider that tastes like apple juice and champagne combined. I just found it by my house and I think I almost slapped the salesman out of joy.

7. Iranian-Kurdish-Swedish roommate hacking up phlegm every morning. Enough said.

8. Taxis. The taxis look like elegant, black Volkeswagens. I feel like James Bond every time I ride in them...and they don't have enough money pay...

9. The drinking age. God bless that drinking age. And taking two classes. And having a month and a half off to study for one final. And the drinking age. Amazing.

10. The people. Cheesy to end with that one on No. 10, but I met awesome roommates and friends that I'll keep in touch with. You get to know people fast when traveling, and I'll never forgot my time there. 

Things I won't miss (short list):

1. English food. I still don't understand "mushy peas" (literally, mashed up peas), why chicken has to taste like my stale flat and why there are no preservatives in bread.

2. Bad teeth. It's true.

3. Driving on the wrong side of the road. 

4. My Iranian-Kurdish-Swedish roommate hacking up phlegm every morning.

5. Bagging your own bags at Tesco and then paying for it.


Mollie922 said...

Sounds like a great trip! Best of Luck adjusting to life back home. It's definitely tough at first, but you'll settle back into the swing of things. You can always go back to England!

I write for a study abroad/travel website: Gulliver. We have a blog and welcome students who are currently abroad or recently returned home to write about their experience. If you have any interest let me know! I definitely enjoyed reading your story! Thanks!

wollersinchina said...

I'm about to come back to America after two years in China. I'm pretty sure that plane ride back is going to be a rough one. All kinda of lists of things I miss...

I appreciated your blog! Thanks