Insights: news and views from the International Center

International Center

University of Missouri


by Garren W.

After 258 days abroad, it was finally time to come home. I was ready, and had been for a while, but it was no less sad to say goodbye to my friends and host family. I had become a member of the family. My younger cousins asked me not to go and my host mom had convinced herself that I was only leaving for the holidays and would be returning next semester to help her deal with my departure.

Two of my host cousins are the proprietors of the only Mongolian grill in Costa Rica, and they had recently shut down their second restaurant. Without a place to store the excess equipment, it found a home in our garage. Thus, my host mom had a great idea: We were to throw a DIY Mongolian grill going away party with everyone — family, friends and neighbors — so that I had a chance to wish them farewell.

Eleven members of host family sit around a table with food.

The crowd from the first night of my two-day going away party.

My host mom spent the entire Saturday before I left cutting ingredients so that I could meet with a Mizzou alumni board member, former MSA president and U.S. diplomat who recently returned to Costa Rica. Everyone arrived and we ate and talked for hours, just enjoying each other’s company. And when we had leftovers, we repeated the festivities the next day so that anyone who missed the first one had a chance to say goodbye.

Student and three others stand around a massive grill, cooking food on top.

The hibachi grill from my host cousin’s restaurant in our garage. It was a fun experience cooking on something that big, and it was so good I went back for seconds both nights.

When I arrived in Missouri, I was exhausted but exited to see everyone I had left behind. It was four days before Thanksgiving, and I had plans to see my entire family. I spent the first couple of days in Warrensburg, my hometown, before driving down to Springfield, where we gather for the holidays. I was overcome with emotion (and exhaustion, a common symptom of reverse culture shock) but I still didn’t feel that I was home.

Student and host family posing in front of a sign that reads "hasta pronto."

(From left) Me, Jon, Kacey, Mama Neila and Alberto. This was my host family for the semester. Jon and Kacey are two U.S. citizens who live in the apartment at the rear of the house, but we were also super close. Hasta pronto means “until next time” or “see you soon” because my host family made me promise that I would visit in the future and stay in contact in the meantime. I think it’ll make a great adventure when I get that itch again sometime after graduation.

That feeling persisted for a couple of weeks before I returned to Columbia for advising appointments and the last meeting of the semester of the University Libraries Student Advisory Council where I would be running for the chairperson position. It was there, staying on a friend’s couch, sin my sublease for the spring has yet to begin, that I realized that my home is now Mizzou.

I loved studying abroad. It was a fantastic experience that I wouldn’t trade for anything, but I’m glad to be home — for a while at least. This spring is going to be awesome, and after, I’ll be ready for another adventure. Just a few days ago, I committed to the faulty-led program in Alicante through the College of Business. I found my love for traveling in Costa Rica, but I also found a greater love for home and I realized that home isn’t my hometown, it’s Mizzou.

About the blogger

Garren W. studied on the IFSA-Butler: Universidad Nacional program in Heredia, Costa Rica.

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