When one (unfortunately) arrives home once again and is greeted by armful by armful of happy friend, one is bound to come across many people who will say, “Yes, I did that too, during my summer session abroad!”
Wait… your summer session? Now, I totally understand if you have time commitments for the semester, financial problems (although from what I have heard, most people spend almost the same amount during their summer session as they would during a semester abroad, but that’s another odd issue entirely), or familial issues, but honestly, it seems to me that a summer session just means this – you got jipped.
If you’re not aware, a summer session tends to run about three to four weeks, sometimes going for as long as six, while study abroad sessions usually range from thirteen to sixteen weeks. Sounds like a big difference? That’s because it is. A summer session is a vacation. A long vacation, but a vacation at that. A semester abroad is an attempt at life.
I remember when four weeks passed during my time in Florence (I happened to be at Oktoberfest at the time, if I remember correctly) and I looked around and said to myself, What if I had to leave right now? What if at this moment, I was packing my bags and being shipped back off to the Jerz?
At four weeks, one is barely adapted to life in another country, another world. One is still a stranger (and probably is still one at the three-and-a-half month mark, too). Many people subconsciously see this as a good thing- they don’t really want to totally assimilate. They don’t want their own habits to have to change, they don’t want to step too far outside their comfort zone, they just want to see a little bit just in time for them to get homesick and get back on the plane to be greeted by a tearful Mom.
When my own friends left for their summer sessions, a few weeks before I left for my semester in Florence, I was a little jealous. I was scared to go away for so long. Petrified, actually. It was like taking a too-big bite of cake when I should have only had a spoonful and now it was falling embarrassingly out of my mouth and everyone was staring. Even when I first got there, in between the moments of extreme excitement, I thought to myself, What have I gotten myself into? What planet do I live on?
But just like anything else, we all get used to our new surroundings and we learn to adapt. We create our new selves and new homes, and when it’s time to leave, we will reach for our armfuls of our new friends too.