I traveled abroad over the holidays, and as I packed my bag in preparation, I was struck by how out-of-practice I felt. For so many months, throwing together a travel bag (whether the trip was for three days or a month) felt so automatic. The strangeness of putting together a bag for this holiday trip has been one of the strangest indications that I’ve really settled back into life in Seattle. And so it is time to document an important part of the experience of my year in Hungary, one that has heretofore been missing: leaving Hungary behind and coming back home.
I’ve started writing this post a few times over the past six months, but I never made it very far. Perhaps I didn’t feel ready. Perhaps it’s just quite a lot to try and fit into one cohesive post. On a personal level, my year in Hungary was, and always will be, a huge part of my life. It changed my life in many ways, some of which I’ve written about here, and some of which I haven’t. But for those of you who followed along all year, and even those of you who’ve stumbled across this blog after the fact, the most relevant question might be: how was my re-entry into American society?
The short answer is: fairly seamless. But there are some caveats. I didn’t have a hard-and-fast re-entry into American life, which helped a lot. In between leaving Hungary and returning to Seattle, I traveled for a week. And once I got back to Seattle in July, I was only home for a week before I was on a plane to the east coast. The next month, August, brought more overseas travel, and when I returned from that 2.5 week trip, I had six days at home before I flew to North Carolina for the Democratic National Convention. So I didn’t truly have any substantial length of time at home until mid-September, even though I left Hungary on July 4th. By the time I was able to spend more than one week at a time at home in Seattle, I was simply ready to stop living out of the backpack I’d been carrying around all summer. It was difficult to feel anything but relief.
And what about reverse culture shock? I think I’ve managed to avoid it for the most part, although there are certain things about Hungary that I often miss. Some things I knew I’d miss (train rides through the Hungarian countryside) and others I couldn’t have predicted (the ritual of saying jó étvágyat, or “good appetite,” before eating a meal). I miss using the Hungarian language much more than I expected to, and I often find myself using simple vocab and phrases at home (my partner picked up a teeny bit of Hungarian on his visits). Sometimes I miss the excitement of an expat life – bonding with other expats, frequent travel to new places, conquering little challenges presented by everyday life. But even though there are things that I miss, I’m mostly just glad to be home.
A year abroad will shape and change your outlook in ways that are impossible to foresee – though for many of us, I think that’s precisely why we decide to do it in the first place. While I am so happy to be back in Seattle for now, I think I’ll always be a little bit restless, and I’m sure I’ll find my way abroad again. Only time will tell.
Thanks to each and every one of you who took the time to read about my journey along the way, and to those of you who’ve found your way here after the fact. I’m not always quick to respond, but I do always welcome questions from anyone considering teaching in Hungary (particularly through CETP), and those questions can find me at: firstname.lastname@example.org