Today my Facebook memories showed me my first post that I made from Groningen 7 years ago (I arrived Aug. 25, 2009, but I didn’t have internet right away or a smartphone to post). It is interesting to pause and reflect where I was then and where I am now. Ultimately, I did accomplish my goals that I had when I left the country 7 years ago. Sure, I took longer finishing my Ph.D. (a common occurrence) and lived abroad longer than I expected, but I have few complaints about where I am now or how I got here.

I’ve been back in the U.S. for over a month now, and I must admit it that has been a bit weird switching back. 2009 doesn’t seem that long ago, but things are different now.

  1. Smartphones: The biggest change by far. The iphone was out for a couple of years, but the smartphone market didn’t take off right away. On a related note, somehow things have switched that I feel that I need to text people before calling them now. I didn’t always have a ton of friends to call while abroad, but now it seems like this phone etiquette has changed. Or I just can’t get out of the mentality that I need to “schedule” my conversations with people like I did with Skype.
  2. Amazon prime: A godsend for all the random crap that I do and don’t need in my life. Helpful for moving, and post-move as well.
  3. Netflix: Streaming–the mail service was just taking off by the time I left. Also, I had to cancel my Australian Netflix (which I’ve only had for a little over a year) and subscribe to my American netflix because Netflix doesn’t change countries well. Otherwise, I would have been charged in AUD until the end of time.
  4. Uber: Thank God for Uber. As someone who can’t drive due to a visual disability, Uber makes things way easier for me to get around. I always relied on awesome friends to get me around over the years (and I still do), but Uber allows me to preserve some my traveling independence that I grew accustomed to while living abroad. I still want self-driving cars to become  thing though.

Switching back to the U.S. has been an interesting re-acclimation. For the first few weeks, I found it odd hearing American accents all the time. I realized that I started getting overwhelmed by choices in stores, particularly in grocery stores. Sounds weird, I know, but our grocery stores are massive compared to Europe and still bigger than the ones I generally went to in Australia. On a related note, my sense of how much things cost is way out of whack, both because of Australian dollar costs but also just re-adjusting my cost of living sense. I can’t keep track of which stores use the damn chip insert for my card and which ones don’t (just do the pay wave system like Australia, please).  Finally, I am less tolerant of the uber-patriotic rhetoric, especially this election season. I love my country, but we Americans can tone things down a bit.

On a more personal level, I know that I am a different person, and I believe that it is mostly for the better. As the obvious point, I’m 31 now, not 24. I generally have mellowed out–in a good way. I have found a balance in my life. I think that I often sacrificed and stressed too much for the sake of my education and career over the years, and I think that lack of balance actually hurt my productivity in the end. I still work hard, but I also recognize the need to keep a balance and take care of myself. Also, I am more comfortable with who I am, and I am less tolerant of wasting my time with people who don’t accept that. I guess the best way to describe my current state of mind is content. Sure, things could be better, and I still have my goals to improve myself. Yet I think these things are more of a function of getting older rather than living abroad…even though that time of course had a huge impact in shaping who I am and how I view things.