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After 90 days abroad I am in my pajamas, curled up on the sofa next to the newly decorated Christmas tree, sipping hot cider and eating a cup of Mom’s tortilla soup. Peppermint ice cream from Dad—my favorite Blue Bell flavor that only comes out in the winter—is for dessert. I am home!
As the group of us “Castle Dwellers,” as we have come to be known, landed in the United States for the first time in three months, we all cheered. The flight attendant was kind enough to announce that it was one of my friend’s 21st birthday and we all sang the Birthday Song in Dutch amidst an airplane full of other people who thought we were crazy. As I walked off the plane another flight attendant looked at me and said, “Welcome home.” Being the sap that I am, of course I got a little teary-eyed.
Ninety days ago if you had told me I would have gotten through this whole experience I probably would have laughed. When I first moved into my room at Kasteel Well, I was terrified to say the least. Ten countries and 18 flights later, I can now say that I did it: I survived being an adult for the first time, and it was one of the greatest experiences of my life. I learned so much about myself (probably more than I wanted to know), about the world, and about mankind.
I know I am different, I can feel it. I am still the Amy I was when I left, but I am much more accepting and open-minded now. Everyone in this world is different, with different values, beliefs, ideas, physical features, lifestyles. I used to be afraid of people who were different from me, but then I stopped and said to myself, “I am the outsider here. I am different from them.” It’s ok to be different, because, when it comes down to it, we are all still human beings, and that is what unites the world.
I have such an appreciation for the people around me and what they have taught me. Before I left, someone told me that my parents had equipped me with everything I could possibly need to make it in the world and that I just needed to realize it. I finally have, and because of it, I am confident enough to begin making my mark. If I had one wish, it would be that everyone could have the experience I did: to meet new people, taste new foods, and, more than anything, teach themselves that they can do it. Once you realize that, the world, and all of the different people in it, don’t seem as scary anymore.