Gap Year: Bringing it Back Home

Believe it or not, the fall semester is coming to a close (I know, I know–when did that happen?!).  After spending several months in a foreign country, living with a host family, studying in a new school, and traveling to a bunch of new places, you’ll probably have a lot you want to tell your friends and family when you get back home.  So, while you’re still savoring your last few days abroad, the Aspire by API team would like to offer you some advice on readjusting, and on how (and when) to best relate your experiences.  This week, we’re featuring a guest post from Erin Weinert, who spent a semester at Complutense University in Madrid.






You know those people who are constantly telling stories about themselves?  Always comparing whatever is happening in the moment with what they have done?  Always relating your story with their own personal experience?  Well, when I returned home from Spain…that was me.  I became that person and I didn’t even realize it.

So your friends and family are obviously interested in your abroad experience and want to hear your stories.  But it really becomes a problem when every sentence begins with, “When I was abroad….”  Not only was I incessantly comparing everything to my time studying abroad, but I also developed a sort of Spanish language tick.  Pretty often I would blurt out something in Spanish.  Not an entire sentence, but maybe just one or two words like “perdón,” “por favor,” and “gracias.”  At first people accepted it and went along with me because I had just returned.  As time went on, however, people around me just started telling me to knock it off!

I can remember the exact moment I realized I need to cool it on my studying abroad stories.  My friend was telling us about her experience going to the top of a sky scraper in Chicago.  Without even recognizing what I was doing, I began explaining that Spain has hardly any sky scrapers because blah blah blah.  As I’m telling this fun fact of the day that I learned in Spain, I began noticing some of my friends eyes rolling back.  Whoa, that’s kind of rude.  Why didn’t they like my story?  I was definitely animated and excited enough to pull them in.  Surely, I’m a great storyteller, so it can’t be a problem with my narrative skills.  My story was fascinating!  And then suddenly it dawned on me.  It wasn’t my lack of storytelling ability but my non-stop story telling that was the problem!  It became so easy for me to turn a conversation on what to have for dinner into a three hour story about how pork is cured in Spain.

Sightseeing in Paris

It occurred to me what the people on the receiving end of my stories might be thinking: “I didn’t go.  I wasn’t a part of this.  I’ve never experienced that.  I don’t know those people.”  My time abroad was just such an amazing experience that I was just so happy to talk about it any chance I got.  I’ve now been able to put the mental brakes on in my head.  I still stick in little stories here and there and throw in a few Spanish words now and then, but I’ve come to a realization: I can’t throw my experiences in other people’s faces because even though it was one of the biggest high points in my life, it wasn’t for them.  Living in Spain and exploring Europe and beyond was unbelievable and something I plan to do again in the future.  And hey, maybe next time I’ll go with those friends I assaulted with my European anecdotes so we can drive everyone crazy together with our new stories!

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