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Spring Semester Woes

This time of year is always strange for me. The start of the spring semester, that is. It’s never as positive as I feel like it should be. Fall semester everyone is coming back from summer vacation where they (most likely) didn’t see many of their school friends. You’re eager to start having a schedule again, rather than struggling to find ways to occupy yourself. Everyone is tan and beautiful from laying in the sun, and there is the thrill of something new after months of monotony. But spring semester is different. You have new classes, which can be pretty exciting. But this time, instead of the warm August sun, you’re stuck with the chilling grey skies of January. And instead of three months to unwind between semesters, you’re left with a measly three weeks which, though incredibly nice, are packed with holiday get-togethers that leave you with little time to relax. You’re back to the same boring stuff you were up to less than a month before, and there is nothing to excite you in a boring Midwest winter.

For me, this time is especially hard because I’ve reached the two-year anniversary of my study abroad experience. Every day that passes is another day I’m not in my favorite place. The ache is duller now than it was before, but it’s still there, only this time I don’t have the one year-mark to justify my sadness. Last year it was more acceptable to be sad because it was the first time I had experienced a spring semester since being back from Ireland. I was watching all of my friends travel to my favorite place, and every picture they posted was another dagger in my heart. Okay, maybe not that bad, but sometimes my jealousy really made it feel that way. I was allowed to wallow in my homesickness, and I took that to the fullest advantage.

Now that I’m two years removed and I have fewer AQ friends studying there, it would seem like I shouldn’t be as upset by it. In a way I’m not. This year is already vastly more positive than it was a year ago. I still miss it every day, but I’m much less vocal about it than I was last year. I find myself getting angry at the people who, today, are in the same place I was a year ago. I’m trying to let them have their sadness just like the students who studied before me let me wail all over social media about my homesickness. I’m trying to remember that people are allowed to be sad, and I can’t judge them for it. Studying abroad is a huge part of your life, and when you’re watching someone else experience something similar to you, in the place you hold dearest, it hurts.

Coming home, and watching other people’s experience is a learning process, and a difficult one at that. But it’s one I think people need to go through. You learn a lot about yourself when you study abroad and, in my experience, you learn even more about yourself once you come back. Study abroad, post-study abroad, and really life in general is a growing process. Learning how you deal with sadness (especially when its winter and Seasonal Affective Disorder sets in) is a very important part of being a person. It really sucks at times, but I’m trying. I’m working on being more positive about winter, about post study-abroad, about being in school a year longer than all of my friends. I’m trying to grow through the good experiences, and grow even stronger during the ones that get me down.

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