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Zorbing Into Culture Shock

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The door opened and it all began
I zoomed my body into a plastic bubble that was going to be my carrier
My splash was nothing sleight of measurable
I saw the edge of the world
And it let me
There were moments of complete certainty
That nothing could ever possibly be better than this
But then in a flash it was
And I was flying into an abyss of pure beauty
Petrified, they coaxed me through it
Petrified, they let me know that this was not how it ended
but how it was going to begin
They let me into their culture, they let me know their stories
They made me want to write my own
To just find what it meant to have my own
Never did I feel alone
Never did I once feel like an outsider
The warmth of this land of the hobbits
Will forever be my home away from home
I found love and I gave a lot of it
Never had everything felt so easy
So simply, astoundingly complex
I have little regret from those weeks I spent there
I have little regret for the world that let me be me
For the world that fed me from lands far away
But always with respect, dignity, all for the satisfaction of a smile
Oh how could I leave
How could I possibly walk away
This, for me, was my greatest defeat
No one tells you what it is like to leave
No one tells you about the whirled complexity of the weight it bears on you
The door to my bubble closed and I was put on the brink of a rollercoaster
Nothing could have prepared me for the moments I would have next
For the tastes, touches, sensations none alike
I drove myself to believe in uncertainty again
in the power of vulnerability to do something so strange and new
I allowed for those moments that would define a small part of my being
of my will to be unlike the man who sits next to me
and shares a story of his own
He was from Africa and sat in my world if only for a moment
Just as the moonshine had carried me through the mountain tops,
his story led me to my own
while the south stars led me to my home
To a place of baas, pies, a beaming sun too
Of fairy rocks, tinkerbells
Ju Ju only made of abnormalities
Of kindness, compassion, admiration for each its own
This bubble took me far but I had never felt closer to where I needed to be
To where the days were long but the fish, so strong
With as fast as I was moving and as long has it had been building
I was well aware the end was near
I was well aware I would run out of hill
And my speed would slow
Until my bubble could carry me no more
I felt devastated
I was not placed safely out of my plastic bubble of waters
I was thrown, full force thrown
Into what should have been my normality
but which now had become my uncertainty
I had changed and the days I thought I knew were the ones that I would question the most
Nothing had prepared my mind, body or soul for what was about to occur
The night I left my bubble my voice was the same as the day before
But that next morning
My percussions were not to be endured
In an instant I felt I had lost
Depleted, defeated in tragic need of a defibrillator
I had to remind myself this is why I had entered in the first place
To make a challenge for myself
To push what I had come to know and accept something new as my reality
I had to let leaving my bubble be a day all in itself
A story that was just beginning
Not one that was coming to an end
There are joys everyday
Even in our routines that have become backhanded in nature
This is why I mustn’t be sad for the end of my ride
but joyful for the memories it gave me
and the opportunities that now await me.

Leaving your study abroad experience will be the hardest part. The reverse culture shock I felt coming home was like nothing I had been thrust into before. I was depressed and missing the days of constant excitement. I tried to keep it all alive, but life goes on and what happened yesterday had to stay a part of yesterday.

Once I was able to accept this, I could see the joy in tomorrow again; the joy in being home with my loved ones. I could allow myself to treat it as I had the day before, as something of an adventure in itself. My study abroad is over, but only if I choose to let it be. After you return home from wherever IFSA-Butler takes you, do not stop sharing your adventure. Talking about it is what is going to keep it alive in your mind.

Maggie Haraburda is an Elementary Special Education student at the University of Vermont and studied abroad with IFSA-Butler at the University of Auckland in New Zealand in 2015.