“That’s the last bag.” I told my host dad as I loaded all my bags into the minivan. I looked back at the house that served as my home for the past ten months. I couldn’t believe it was time to say goodbye to my life here and head back to Libya. Those past months here in the United States have been everything I dreamed of, but I was ready to head back home.
When I first left my family, I knew I would miss them, but I never imagined it would be this difficult to live away from them. Nevertheless, my host family was great, they always made me feel welcomed, and like I belonged to them just as much as their other children. This experience made me notice the dissimilarities between families from our different cultural backgrounds, but it also taught me to appreciate each difference.
As I hugged my host family in the airport with tears dripping down all our faces, my host mom handed me a letter that was wax sealed with their initials. On the back of the letter it said “Open when you miss us”. I put the letter in my back-bag and waved my final goodbye as I headed to my gate to check-in.
I couldn’t have ever imagined how close I would grow to these people that were strangers to me just ten months ago. I couldn’t imagine that I now would have to feel homesick for a country that wasn’t my own.
I was glad I had my fellow exchange student friend on the same flight as we headed for our final departure before we both part ways going to our own country. We held hands and consoled one another as we were feeling the same bittersweet feelings during that flight. Yes, we were very excited to see our families and friends back home but we were also saying goodbye to our new families and friends that we might never get the chance to see again.
I looked out of window and watched as St. Louis faded away until I saw nothing but clouds. That moment I pulled out my host mother’s letter and opened it. Is it hard to believe I already miss them? Point is I wish I hadn’t. The letter got me crying like a baby. I knew my host mother has her way with words, but every word on that letter hit right in the heart. One line that affected me the most was when she wrote: “As we send you home, always remember you have another home that will always be waiting for the return of their daughter.”
When we arrived to our dorms in Washington D.C for our final orientation, the first thing I did was go looking for my two Libyan friends that came with me from Libya. They were placed with other families in other states and I haven’t seen them since we left this exact dorm site ten months ago to head out to our separate adventures. As they saw me run towards them, they started running towards me as we met halfway and embraced one another. That’s when it finally sunk in; seeing them made it seem real. I was going home.
Two days later, all three of us sat on our final plane to Tripoli. A couple more hours and I would finally be able to hug and kiss my mother. However, those couple of hours were the longest hours I have ever had to live. The anticipation that built inside me to just get off that plane already. It was like the seat was filled with thorns. Ok, maybe I am being a little dramatic, and I also might be the least patient person you’ll ever meet, but then again, who could patiently wait on an eight-hour flight that stands between them and seeing their family.
While people were reaching over their cabinet to get their luggage after we landed, I wanted to push all of them out of the way and just get off of this plane. It seemed like each minute was passing by so slowly just to irritate me. Oh, how I was angry while waiting for my luggage at the luggage claim! The fact that I was brining three huge bags was probably part of why I had to wait so long. What can I say, I’m a shopper that was left with money in the United States, what did they expect.
Finally, I placed all three bags on a stroller and hurried out. I could not stop my tears from dripping as I saw all my family standing there waiting for me; My parents, siblings, my cousins and also my best friend, whom has flown all the way from Benghazi to welcome me home. I was then so overwhelmed with everyone’s hugs I could not stop myself from crying. Let me tell you, that was a very dramatic scene, it kind of felt like a scene from a movie when a soldier comes back from war or something. Ok, I might not be a soldier and I was not in war but you get what I mean.
As I settled back into my normal life, my host family never left my mind. We naturally kept in touch and skyped at least once a week. They also came to visit me a year later. The best part about their visit was having both my families on one table getting along as if they have known each other their entire lives. As I looked at them, this great sense of happiness overwhelmed me; I realized that I was blessed with two loving, supportive families that always have my back. I am indeed a very lucky girl.