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Every other email from the study abroad offices at my home school and my program school talks about reverse culture shock. So I’ve been thinking about the issue and wondering if and how badly I would experience it when I come back from France.

But never did I imagine that I would experience reverse culture shock when I arrived back in Chicago after a 3-month stint in Montana.

Just simply walking through O’Hare made me feel uncomfortable all of a sudden. I finally understood why my ex-boyfriend was never very comfortable in the big city. Everybody is so rough and gruff and always in a hurry. Certainly, I was like that as well. But I guess 3 months in Montana has changed me, at least temporarily.

I feel like Rip Van Winkle, waking up when everything including the president has changed (in this case, Rahm Emanuel had replaced Daley) and feeling older and out of place.

I feel like everyone around me here just needs to slow down and breathe and take things in. And be nicer to everyone like Montanans are.

It’s also almost odd to see diversity again. Seeing people of all races was almost surprising. I hadn’t given it much thought, so upon stepping off the plane, I was almost expecting the nearly all-white constituency that exists in Montana.

And upon arriving back on campus, I also all of a sudden felt the need to hide. I think I’ve grown to somewhat like the anonymity that I had in Montana. Besides the fact that I stood out like a sore thumb and was also on TV periodically, I was provided quite a solitary existence. But on campus, even with most of my friends gone for the summer, it felt like so much attention. I feel the need to keep my sunglasses on even when the sun has gone down (though this is a terrible idea – the other day I thought Cosi was closed when it definitely wasn’t).

But I think this is somewhat a different kind of reverse culture shock from what I may experience when I come back from France next year.

At least in France I will be with other college students, whereas in this situation, I had been working full-time in the real world and am all of a sudden thrown back into collegiate life. It’s odd.

When the cashier or bartender asks for my I.D., I often wonder why – only to realize that I simply feel older than I am.

Perhaps I’ll be able to be the college co-ed I was before I left. Perhaps not.

Now I just have to see how long it takes me for me to readjust to life in the concrete jungle.

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