Across the Pond

Thoughts on coming back to the U.S.

Grace Schutte

More stories from Grace Schutte

Bookclub
September 27, 2022
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Photo by Grace Schutte

How do I go straight into my three summer jobs, internships and grad school applications while searching my suitcase for the lost American identity I’d packed away the day I arrived in Spain?

Note: “Across the Pond” is an on-going column in which freelance writer Grace Schutte will be writing about her study abroad experience in Valladolid, Spain.

In chatting with my study abroad friends, we’ve collectively agreed the tail end of our time abroad is comparable to the five stages of grief, of which I can say — with the utmost confidence — I have graduated to the second level: anger

First came denial, as it always does: If I simply don’t think about my impending doom, then it won’t bother me as much, right? 

I can’t hear the prophecy if I plug my ears and sing “Twinkle-Twinkle Little Star” at the top of my lungs. 

Surely, all this walking around hasn’t been for nothing? All this time I’ve been training to outrun not only my problems, but time itself. Of this I am convinced and nothing will convince me otherwise.

But, no matter how I tried to stop the days from passing, they slipped through my fingers, evading like a wet bar of soap, flinging themselves farther from my grip the harder I tried to hold on. 

This weekend was the straw that broke the camel’s back. 

A few of my friends and I went to Barcelona to pass our long weekend: we visited La Segrada Familia, strolled through Park Güell and spent an entire day at the beach, staring off into the Mediterranean Ocean enjoying the perfect weather. 

I was steaming with rage the whole time. 

The reason might seem silly, but I was enjoying myself so thoroughly that I became upset to think how temporary it all was. In three short weeks, I would no longer be able to soak in the beauty of not only Barcelona, but Spain, too, I thought. 

In three short weeks I’ll be back in the United States and I’m terrified. 

This is not to say I hate the U.S. (or, not completely, that is), but there is a heavy dread sitting squarely on my chest that seems to grow even heavier still when I think about boarding the flight back “home.” 

I do not, by any means, identify as a Spaniard, but having been welcomed into a different culture that at times seems so at odds from my own has been an uncomfortable but absolutely incredible experience. 

The mundane, daily acts that once seemed so difficult — like crossing the street, ordering coffee and taking the city bus — are now so second nature and comfortable that I don’t want to give them up. 

You mean, I have to wait for the sign to change to cross the street? Who on earth needs 24 ounces of coffee? Even 12 sounds like too much, now. How am I supposed to romanticize my life if I can’t stare out the window on my way to school while listening to Main Character Playlists?

But the fear extends further than that. How do I go straight into my three summer jobs, internships and grad school applications while trying to piece myself together, while searching my suitcase for the lost American identity I’d packed away the day I arrived in Spain? 

I cannot begin to fathom what this next semester will be like when the classes resume full force and as unforgiving as ever — will I be well rested and ready for this last year of college, or still reeling from the culture-shock?

I’m not ready to find out, not quite yet. 

Schutte can be reached at [email protected].