My Global Citizen Year has now come to an end. I wasn’t expecting coming home to be harder than leaving, but watching my host family wave to me as I drove away was truly heartbreaking. When I left my family in the US to go on my big Brazilian adventure, I knew that I would be back in eight short months, I knew that they would still love me, I knew that they would still remember me, and I knew that they would go back to being my family just like before. I did not have that kind of certainty when I left my host community in Garopaba. I don’t know when the next time that I will see my Brazilian family and friends will be, but I do know that the next time I go to Garopaba, it will be as a visitor rather than a family and community member. The closing of a chapter of my life with such finality was very scary and unsettling.
Luckily, I was given lots of support during my transition back into my life in the states. We began the process by spending four days with the Brazil cohort and staff at a beautiful bed and breakfast in the capital city of the state we lived in. As always, we ate too much food and had a lot of dance parties. We were given this time to prepare for Re-Entry Training (where all of the cohorts from Senegal, Ecuador, India, and Brazil come together) so that when we arrived in California for RET we were prepared for the next week to prepare some more.
Re-Entry Training was an intense week of reconnecting with old friends, trying desperately to form meaningful relationships with fellows from other country cohorts in the little time we had left together, reflecting on our experiences, getting excited to join the immense Global Citizen Year alumni network, and being cold and dry in the Northern California climate. Coming fresh out of Brazil’s tropical summer, the cold was probably the hardest part of the week. It was pretty overwhelming being in such a large group of people who I kind of already knew, and I found a lot of solace and love in my Brazil cohort. Those were the people that had been with me through all of my ups and downs throughout the year, seen me at my strongest and my weakest, and the people who I trust most and care most deeply for. I wanted to nurture those relationships that I knew would last forever and take advantage of my last days with some of my best friends. The series of sessions provided by GCY staff and guests from outside of the program were also incredibly inspiring and gave me a lot to chew on in terms of how to make the most of the experience I had. We also had lots of dance parties.
Being given a space to process and think about how it would be coming home really did help my transition back. Even so, the first few days that I was home, I felt totally out of place. I was positive that at any moment, my family and friends would realize that I am not really Julia, but an alien imposter who looks like her. Eventually I re-established my space in my home, got back into my old eating and sleeping habits (only three meals a day in the US! My stomach is still on the Brazilian four meal schedule), and picked up right where I left off with my friends and family. North Carolina air smells so sweet to me now. Even though I have changed deeply, this will always be my home and I am so happy to be back.