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Ready to be home, yet not quite ready

As I near the last couple months of my exchange, I have mixed feeling about almost everything. When I think about it, I never want to leave. Chile is a new home to me that I’ll never forget. At the same time, I miss my old home more than ever.

The question that keeps running through my head is, “Will I be ready to leave?” Sure, some days when I am too sick of my two sisters, my sister’s rat dog and any normal thing — like how my host family eats meals — I think that I am ready to leave. But then I go out with my friends or I discover some cool thing about my city and I realize that I can’t bear the thought of leaving.

What am I going to do when the day comes that I have to leave my four best friends in Chile: Javier, Maria, Sarah and Duck Lake? Then what? Am I going to be sad every time I make pancakes or dance? They say life goes on, but life can’t just go on in the same way once you’ve experienced this.

Thinking about going back to my old life scares me. I’m afraid that it’s going to be too much to handle. I have a feeling that reverse culture shock is going to happen and I’m just going to stare blankly at things and people and not know what to do. It’s guaranteed that I’m going to kiss people on the cheek when I greet them, so be prepared.

My fear is that I won’t know what to say to all of the people I know at DLHS. I have changed. What is important to me is probably not what is important to them. In all honesty, I really have no interest in what happened in school during this past year, so what do I say?

All I’m going to want to talk about is Chile and I know, deep down, that they can’t understand and won’t really care. I feel like they’re going to resent me for what I’ve been through.

This makes me sound like a loner and maybe it’s true. The thing is, I am not the same person I was seven months ago. I can’t go back to being that person. Truth is, I don’t want to go back.

It’s not that I don’t want to be a friend and have friends, it’s just that now I have friends in Chile and friends from all over the world. I guess if that is what it means to be a loner, at this point I actually like the idea.

Of course I miss things about DL. I miss the way the trees look. I miss the lake. I miss skiing. I really miss my bed. Heck, I even miss being awakened by my father at 6:30 in the morning. I miss waking up to the view of the lake, having the moon shine through my windows at night and even having no heat in my room.

It will be nice to sit down for dinner and actually talk to my family. At lunch with my host family nobody talks to anybody. All we do is sit down, eat and then get up whenever you’re done.  For me, it is one of the biggest things that I can’t stand. 

The thing I am looking forward to the most is getting away from my sister’s dog, Sophie. I absolutely can’t stand her. Every morning at about 10, she comes into my room and barks at me. Then I kick her out of my room and everything is right with the world again. She reminds me every day of why I’m a cat person and how much I miss my cat Bernice.

Most of all, I miss being loved. At home, I know my family loves me. In Chile, I know my friends love me, but I don’t get that vibe from my family. I feel like I’m just the girl sleeping in the extra room. I miss getting a hug goodnight from my parents and more than a “Get up!!” from them in the morning. I miss getting called to my frozen waffles in the morning for breakfast. Heck, I don’t even remember the last time I ate breakfast. I just miss feeling like part of the family.

The question that still lingers in my mind has a two part answer. Yes, I’m ready to go home. I’m ready to fight with Dylan, ready to have more responsibilities than just coming home on time. But really, I’m not ready. I’m not ready to let go of my exchange year.

I’m not ready to leave some of the best people that I’ve ever met. Truly, when will I ever be? I’m not ready to be that girl that doesn’t want to speak English or the girl who knows nothing about what happened in the past year. I feel like I’ve already moved on from my high school life two years too soon.

Although I am dreading my return home on July 17, I am also looking forward to it. I know that I will be stuck to my parents’ sides for at least a day. It’s going to take some time for me to get back into routine, but it will have to be done.

I’ll have my response to the half-hearted question asked by my peers, “Oh Berit, how was Chile?” down, and I know they’ll forget the answer by the end of the day. On the other hand, to those of you willing to listen to my thousands of stories from this incredible journey, I know I will be more than happy to spend hours with you talking about it.

Berit Ramstad Skoyles is a junior at Detroit Lakes High School and is studying abroad in Chile this year.