I spent the last year in the United States as an international student. It was my first time in the U.S., along with the first time I travelled alone and stayed away from home for such a long time. Coming from the small developing country of Mauritius, I was told that I’d be dazzled by everything in the U.S. And of course, I was at first: technology seemed to be at a whole new level, the seemingly endless options available at Target made me dizzy, and I actually liked dining hall food, loving the buffet-style setting.
Until I became used to everything, that is, and having easy access to WiFi almost everywhere no longer delighted me (I complained when there wasn’t). Like every other American student, I began to bash on dining hall food on a daily basis, although Target’s allure never went away for me – I could literally spend hours in it: just ask my roommate, who had to suffer through my never-ending contemplations between Trident and Orbit!
I was also told that life back home would feel boring to me when I came back for summer break- after having been ‘Americanized,’ I would find Mauritius backward and would long for my life back in the U.S.-reverse culture shock, they said. And after having had flight connections in huge airports in Atlanta and Paris, I did find the humble airport in Mauritius to be surprisingly small and not as sophisticated – but that’s really where my reverse culture shock ended. Coming back home, it’s like I never left. Everything feels exactly the same. I’m not going around craving McDonald’s or complaining that we don’t have enough options in our supermarkets. (I will admit to saying that our roads aren’t wide enough, but that could be more because of my less-than-stellar driving skills.)
No, what I want is to hold on to every single moment that I’m here. I want to cherish everything: my time with my family, the familiar Mauritian food that I’d missed even more than I thought, seeing people who look like me when I go out, the blue horizon of the sea that I kept looking for in the Midwest. I don’t even want to think about going back.
Here I don’t have to think before I speak, or worry about mispronouncing something since I no longer have to translate everything into English in my mind – I can speak freely in my native language of Mauritian Creole. I can wear traditional clothes without being stared at, and I can go to the beach, the real deal – sun, sand, seashells and all – not the lakes that Midwesterners accept as beaches! I just want to memorize every nook and cranny of my house, the face of my little brother when he smiles, and the feeling of being truly at home in a place where I belong and fit in perfectly.