So somehow when I wasn’t quite looking second semester started. I had an epic FYSAE re-orientation blog all planned out. I was going to talk about Diana (my roommate and the FYSAE student coordinator) and her amazing planning and organization skills. And I was going to talk about all the fun and nifty and sweet FYSAEers I met and all the fun times we had getting them settled into Arcadia.
Then I started thinking about what it was like for me when I came back to the States after spending that first semester abroad, and realized that wasn’t what I wanted to talk about at all.
Not that it wasn’t a great weekend. I really do think the Winter Welcome is a wonderful event. When I was FYSAE there was no official program to help with the reverse culture shock. We showed up for second semester with the rest of the students, were handed a key and classes started the next day. And that was fine.
At least I thought so at the time. I mean, I thought, I’d only been gone for a few months, and there had been Christmas Break to readjust. Arcadia isn’t that big. I had my FYSAE friends, and everything else I’d just figure out as it came up. And I guess I did. I know I did because here I’m on the other side.
That first semester back was hard. I mean really hard. And thinking about it, I feel a lot more comfortable talking about that experience (my experience) than I do talking about Winter Welcome. Because as much as I enjoyed the weekend and think it’s a wonderful idea and was happy to be a part of it. Winter Welcome should be about the new old FYSAEers. And if I tried to write a blog about it, it wouldn’t end up being about them at all. It would be about me and the other mentors and the experience of watching other people go through something hard and important that you have gone through yourself.
So I’m just going to write unabashedly about that for a minute.
It’s a strange sensation to read some of these other blogs and talk to new FYSAEers and new old FYSEAers and know that that’s all behind me. In a lot of ways I feel like an old foggy.
Sunday night, after the all the planned events were done and the new old FYSAEers were moved in and settled, a bunch of the mentors went out for drinks. As we talked about the weekend and how we thought it went, the thing that kept coming up over and over again was how…parental we had felt all weekend. Even if there was only a three year age gap and even if we’d only met fleetingly or via e-mail before that weekend, from the minute the new old FYSAEers showed up, we felt connected.
And somewhere during that weekend, as they started to droop and we continued to talk their ears off, it occurred to me that the long re-orientation process was as much for us as it was for them. And it occurred to me that once that weekend was over, I would never have another opportunity to talk to people empathetically about FYSAE.
The experience of living abroad, of living on my own for the first time, of traveling on my own for the first time, of seeing a four month long barrage of new places and people and things was over. The aftermath was over too. The entire experience had sort of congealed into my past.
That’s okay. That’s good. I’ve made my peace with it. I’ve come full circle, and eventually the new old FYSAEers will too. So even if one day that semester recedes even further into the past and becomes just another neat thing I once did, it’ll always be a really important neat thing I once did.