Thoughts on Being Back

By Carlon Anggius '13, Contributing Writer “Argentina was great, but it’s good to be back.”

Although I have heard myself say this line countless times—to family, to friends, to strangers—it has yet to sound like anything other than what it is: a weak dodging of the question and quick topic-changer. The truth is, I have yet to find a fitting characterization of the most incredible (and challenging) five months of my life, and my response to being back in Camp Claremont changes daily, if not hourly. For me, and I’m sure for many of us coming back from studying abroad, the reverse culture shock Neva Barker once warned us of has loomed large during my first two weeks back in Claremont.

This is not to say I am unhappy being back. The moment I saw the Claremont Colleges sign indicating my exit off the 210, I was overwhelmingly excited to be back home at the school I’d been raving about all semester to my friends abroad. My friends here inspire me every day, and I can’t begin to explain the relief I still feel knowing all of my classes are in English. I can’t say enough good things about being within walking distance from every party or having endless food options at my fingertips three times a day, every day. That being said, the Claremont I left is not the same one I returned to.

Although I left Scripps last spring more comfortable and confident in my place here than I had ever been anywhere, I now feel like an outsider looking in. I recognize far fewer faces on campus than I did before, the near silence on Friday nights is wildly unsettling and my once familiar routine now feels tedious and confining. Additionally, it hardly needs to be said that the Village—as its name implies—is incomparable to Buenos Aires, the city I spent five months exploring and still yearn to learn so much more about.

Although the past two years I spent in Claremont were exactly what I wanted then, being abroad has changed what I expect from myself, my surroundings and my daily life. I’ve resolved to spend every Saturday off-campus in an unfamiliar place (this week Joshua Tree, next week Little Tokyo), and to take a few hours one day every week strictly for myself, on my own time, and far, far away from anything remotely related to a reading, a problem set, or Sakai. Although I may struggle to respond when asked casually about my time in Argentina, I plan to honor the independence and wonder I felt every day while abroad by approaching Claremont just as I did Buenos Aires. My initial discomfort has given me the opportunity to meaningfully change the way I view my relationship with Scripps. It remains the home I love and value infinitely, but also the gateway to a beautiful part of the world I have left unexplored for over two years. I am going to change the way in which I interact with Southern California–essentially, by interacting with it in the first place.