It has officially been one month since I have returned from studying abroad in Chiang Mai, Thailand. When I stepped off my third and final plane, I was nearly a zombie. After 30+ hours of travel, I felt sick and miserable; I could barely process what was going on!
My parents embraced me and drove me another excruciating hour back home. They helped me carry all of my bags inside, then left me to sleep. I remember looking into my room and immediately feeling shock.
“Wow,” I said aloud. “I have so much stuff I don’t need!”
Upon returning from study abroad, things that I felt were necessities and very important in my life prior to studying abroad in Thailand suddenly held no meaning or significance. I had so much emotional attachment to objects that I thought were important in my day-to-day life, but after living in Thailand I could not imagine ever thinking that way again. Why did I own so much jewelry when I only really wear two or three of them? Why did I keep prom and homecoming dresses or shirts that were too small for me? Do I really need this many stuffed animals???
I have hardly spent any time in my room since I have been home from going abroad. I have even opted to sleep on the couch because my room just feels stuffy and crowded! I plan to clean it out and really only keep the necessities; being able to gather all of your things and go anywhere at a moment’s notice was a way of life I really admired. I finally realized what my Buddhism class and other USAC alumni were trying to explain to me about attachments, but I couldn’t feel that way before I brought my experience back with me. I feel very grateful to have experienced a school of thought I would have been completely ignorant of if I did not go abroad and see a completely different way of life.
I’ll admit it: I miss Chiang Mai terribly. I miss the roads filled with scooters and how traffic would stop for you just so you could cross. I miss the street vendors where I could get delicious food for cheap and I miss the constant challenge of learning and improving my Thai language skills. Most of all I miss the people who showed me so much of their beautiful culture and taught me what it really means to be Thai.
That being said, I have tried to incorporate many aspects of Thai culture into my life to assuage my pining to return. I now have my own Buddha statue and yoga mat to use during meditation. I have hung a bell I received in Thailand (which I ring on occasion to attract good karma!) to remind me of my host country. I have a photo album filled with pictures from my trip and still practice my ocarina from time-to-time, which I bought and learned to play while I was there. Just these simple things have comforted me and helped me with the transition back into my home country.
Studying abroad helped me to center myself and gave me a clearer picture of my place in the world; it has changed the way I view nearly everything and has simultaneously prepared me for my next journey away from home. Thanks to everyone for the life-changing journey and all the adventures we had along the way.
Micaela Gonino is a Central Michigan student who is currently studying abroad in Chiang Mai, Thailand.