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By Madison Altenbach, Verto Argentina Spring 2024

Hey everyone, this is Madison! To reintroduce myself, I am a two-time Verto alumnus, and I am in my third week of being home after my second semester abroad in Buenos Aires. I wanted to talk about my experience coming home after both semesters and what that was like, including reverse culture shock, leaving a city you fell in love with, and seeing home with a new perspective.

The Bittersweet Goodbye

The weeks before the program’s end date feel very surreal for everyone for different reasons, and there are a lot of mixed feelings amongst the group. You start to realize all of the things you will miss about being abroad and also start to become excited about all of the things you have missed during your time away. In both semesters, the last couple of weeks are the fastest and the best. You start to prioritize all the experiences that you have been putting off throughout the semester, and you form even deeper connections with the people around you as you begin those conversations about how you are feeling about the close of the semester. Having the reality of the end sink in makes you appreciate all of the people and aspects of your new life on a whole different level. The two words I would use to describe the last week in your Verto location are “emotional” and “bittersweet.” Those months spent abroad are incredibly transformative and contain some of the best memories of your life, so moving on from that chapter feels like a huge deal. Nonetheless, the return date arrives, and that bittersweet feeling reaches its peak. You get ready to say goodbye to some of the most important connections of your life, to your new second home, while also preparing to reunite with your family, best friends, and comforts of home.

Home at Last!

Landing in your home state is, again, very surreal. It feels tough to believe that you are really in the U.S. and about to see your family again. The days following hold many exciting events: reuniting with people you have missed, eating that fast food you’ve been craving, sleeping in your own bed, etc. Those next few weeks will be filled with answering a million questions and many of the same ones repeatedly. You will find the joy and excitement of sharing all about your experience with the people you love, but soon, you will realize how much you have changed.

New Person, Old Place

Returning to the environments you lived in before this transformative semester will make you realize how much you have grown. For instance, many things I had normalized about my home city became shocking upon my return. In Buenos Aires, there were no large supermarkets like Target and Walmart, so you often had to go to multiple places to get what you needed. Most coffee shops, restaurants, and stores were small, family-owned businesses, and the few chain companies that existed were primarily local to Buenos Aires or Argentina. It felt strange to return to a city where almost every store was a chain restaurant or large corporation, with very few locally owned businesses (for reference, I live in the suburbs of Phoenix, Arizona). Aspects of life that were once normal to you start to stand out, and you may find that you have many new perspectives on things you didn’t even think about before your semester abroad. This can also apply to your friendships. Your experiences abroad can become cornerstones for your new worldview, future goals, and even relationships in ways very specific to your global experience. You may find that after such a significant life experience, it can be challenging to relate to your peers at the same level you did before. Coming home can sometimes feel somewhat isolating because, no matter how much you explain your experience, people cannot fully understand it on the level you feel it. But regardless of all of the discomforts of growing, you grew! And that will always be a good thing:)

Seeing the Good

But don’t worry! Home is still home, and while you may have different perspectives on things now, you will appreciate home so much more than you did before! Everything that was a normal part of life in high school will become so much more special: family dinners, driving, American snacks, your siblings, the list goes on. The winter break between my two semesters was one of the best I have ever had! I prioritized spending time with people I missed while abroad and enjoying parts of my city that I took for granted. You also bring home the independence you established while abroad, making life at home easier in many ways!

Final Thoughts

Because studying abroad for an extended period of time is so life-changing, everything following the experience can feel different, and adjusting back home after such a big change definitely has its obstacles. But all of it is so worth it and has positive outcomes all around! You get to be a more mature, independent, and global person while appreciating everything about home so much more! Plus, you have your new Verto community to talk with about the transition back home if things get hard – you guys will be experiencing a lot of the same feelings after all. I hope this blog helped prospective or active Verto participants feel more prepared for what it can be like to return home after a Verto semester. Please remember that this is just my experience; everyone has their own journey regarding coming home and being abroad in general! I hope my perspective provided some helpful insight into one of the possibilities.

Until next time,


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