I’m getting worried.
I have been told that the culture shock upon returning to America is stronger than the shock upon coming to Europe. And I understand why.
Just this week I saw the Mona Lisa, ate lunch under the Eiffel Tower, studied Las Meninas in person at the Museo del Prado, and am soon heading to Barcelona to walk among the architectural masterpieces of Antoni Gaudí. On my walk to school in Madrid I pass a palace and the former hunting grounds of the Hapsburg dynasty. On my walk to school at Marquette I pass Real Chili. How will anything at home compare?
Familiar territory is comforting. I will be glad to be back among people that speak my language—that should prevent 30 euro miscommunications at the dry cleaners. And of course I miss friends and family.
But unfamiliar territory is thrilling. Wandering around foreign cities not knowing what I will stumble upon next is my favorite way to pass the time. The long, complicated history of Europe intrigues me, and the culture agrees with me (though I am still too Type-A to siesta for 2 hours every day.)
It was in talking to some Spaniards one night that I discovered a solution. These students were surprised that I had never been to Seattle or San Francisco or Yellowstone National Park. I haven’t skied in Aspen and I have never taken a Greyhound bus. There is so much of America that I have yet to experience. And in Milwaukee, when I’m missing the warm mediterranean climate, I can always walk to the lake to visit my Spanish friend Santiago Calatrava.