Back To America!
Before my flight back to San Francisco took off from Copenhagen Airport, I listened to some music to pass the time.
You know, when I was saying goodbye to everyone at the train station, I didn't shed a tear. I felt kinda bad too because of that. In contrast, my Copenhagen buddy was teary in her goodbyes and in the deliveries of hugs as we began mounting our departing train.
Even when we were eating at a fancy Danish food market, debriefing was almost like touching a raw nerve.
As she spoke, her voice cracked and the eyes watered.
At the moment, as I was eating my duck burger, I couldn't comprehend the sadness. In my head I was like, "Come on, so what if it's over? This is a time for celebration, not a funeral."
And at the end of a chaotic and memorable final night in Europe, the thought of departing from the last connection to this study abroad experience started gnawing at me.
Once we all go back to our respective countries, cities, and homes, we wake up from a dream. We wake up and wonder what the fuck just happened as you realize it's done.
I'm back in the departing flight to the Bay Area from Copenhagen.
The waterworks erupted.
My friend was right, she was so fucking right. It was all over, you know. This whole entire experience… I will never have this again. All these faces I’ve been seeing for this pivoting part of my life are not here anymore.
Maybe I was being a little dramatic. I’ll still be able to talk to my homies from Kalmar and we will probably see each other again. (A week after I came back, I did hang out with my Copenhagen buddy in San Francisco for a day.)
...But it won’t be in the context of Kalmar, and in the backdrop of Europe, within the whole picture of a study exchange.
So I just cried and continued wiping my tears as I sat in the economy row. Luckily I had a window seat so I was able to hide all these tears from my seat buddies. Could you imagine getting to your middle seat and having to sit next to a sobbing, fat American listening to Kanye West?
The tears quickly stopped and the hours passed excruciatingly slow. Then I was here now. I was home home.
I, Liping Huang, was back in the United States of America; in the actual city of dreams, housing shortages, and gentrification: San Francisco. The golden city of delicious Chinese food and burritos with a red bridge smack in the foggy north of the city.
My mom drove me home from the airport. We hugged, we chatted. She was shocked by how dark my complexion had gotten. Nothing special, typical Asian parent talk.
Drake was wrong. Everything was the same.
You know, I hadn’t seen my Dad for a whole year. So when he came back home after I wolfed down some real home-cooked Chinese food, I gave him a half-hug. He then asked me,
How am I supposed to describe the shift in the progression of my experience and mentality without completely boring someone or coming off entirely pretentious? I don’t even know how to convey the impact it had on me to my parents in my semi-okay Chinese.
But in all honesty, yeah it was fun. It was exhilarating, new and strange.
A solo experience that warps into a constantly growing web of beautiful connections. Connections stemming from conversations with then-strangers coming from different countries and continents.
The first couple weeks back were rough. The juicy study abroad stories ran out, and my European perspective/insight was just not necessary for me to mention to my friends and family.
Post-study abroad depression is kind of like Kylie Jenner complaining about being too famous.
Nobody can relate and nobody cares, unless you’re also too famous.
I looked forward to receiving Snaps from my international comrades in the morning. We went through this whole thing together and had a common understanding of what the fuck just happened.
The inside jokes were there, but they weren’t as biting. The conversations came, but slowly waned. Every node of communication was an attempt to keep the experience alive. Every Snap sent felt like a baby chimpanzee desperately trying to resuscitate its dead parent.
Moving on didn't mean ceasing to respond back to Snaps from different time zones.
For me, moving on was not putting my face to my hands and making a groaning noise lamenting my current position in San Francisco.
Moving on meant not constantly researching future travel and abroad opportunities when I had a shit load of coursework to do.
In its finality, it just took time. The stupid reverse culture shock hit me like that joint I smoked in Amsterdam. I didn’t see it coming and it lasted for longer than I would’ve liked.
I still try not to look back at the memories from abroad. You know; the overloaded camera roll, the saved videos, and the old Snapchat screenshots.
It still kinda hurts. It’ll take some time coming to terms with the end; the grand finale. This is when the credits are supposed to roll, the fat lady sings and people start walking out the theater.
But I'm still sitting on my seat with my feet on the sticky floors, watching each name pass by without realizing that there’s no one else left in the room except for me.
And I’m waiting for the day where I sit down and look at all the memories without that nauseous pang of nostalgia. There aren’t any photos in my room from my time abroad, at least not yet.
I really fucking miss Sweden, but I need to remind myself to roll out the red carpets. I mean... I’m back, baby!
I know everything is going to get better from now on. And things have been better.
New doors have opened and I don’t think there’s anything stopping me at this point. I really believe that I can do anything. I say yes more now.
I look forward to the future because it's full of opportunities and dreams that are yet to be filled. I'm still searching for that hole in that shape of me on this world. But I know one day, I'll just stumble and fall into it.
I think I’ll head over to Tokyo for Spring Break. Graduation is right around the corner and this blind self-confidence in myself is going slightly overboard.
Studying abroad was, and is fun. But now it’s time to cue Kanye’s Graduation album. And here’s the cue to roll the credits. I gotta head out and Snap back some people.