I always thought I’d never again be as nervous as I was on August 12th, 2003. It was a sunny summer morning when my parents took me to the airport to start the biggest adventure of my life: one year as an exchange student in the US. I honestly believed I wasn’t able to feel any more excited than I felt that day, until I made the decision ten years later to make my return.
This was the beginning of a whole new adventure. It all started with a casual talk with my little sister, who was planning a trip to the USA to improve her English. All of a sudden I found myself suggesting we’d go there together and before long flights were booked and arrangements made for us to stay with my former host family. Richmond, VA here we come!
As departure day drew closer and closer, questions made their way into my mind. Will I be a stranger all over again to this place that I loved so much? Will my sister like it as much as I did? Will I still like it? What has changed? And what has not? What kind of an emotional rollercoaster is this going to be? Will I be able to speak English just as well as I did ten years ago? What will it be like from a completely new perspective as a tourist, as a pretty much grown up and independent human being? At the same time different memories literally flooded my mind: memories of precious moments with family, friends and loved ones. It is those memories and friendships that have prevailed all these years. It is those memories and friendships that fed my excitement.
Then the big day finally came: boarding flight BA0265 to Washington Dulles International Airport.
When the plane touched down on American ground, my heart jumped for joy.
It was hard to believe I’d actually started my new adventure, the day had finally come! Familiar sounds and smells surrounded me with comfort and peace. The tone of American English, that southern drawl, country music on the radio, the way every American mall smells the same, the aroma of a warm chocolate chip cookie… I could not have been any more content.
But what really made a difference this time around was coming home to so many wonderful and loving people. Many many new memories were made: surprising my best friend at the airport, playing Mexican train, sitting on the front porch talking and watching fireflies, visiting my first baseball game, seeing dolphins in the Chesapeake bay, seeing the biggest library in the world, tons of good food and even more good company, swimming in the Atlantic Ocean, canoeing the James River… Now most of these things may seem random, but to me they are not. They are very personal things, which made this trip so amazing.
And as for my mind full of questions, it was silent once I got on the plane. The anxiety was gone and I was ready to go home. And that was just what I did.
This is what it feels like. Ten years later. Still at home.