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International student reflects on experience at Kirkwood

Returning home to Indonesia brings change

By Ziadah Ziad
On November 30, 2016

Ziadah Ziad is from the Island of Lombok located in Indonesia. Photo by Ziadah Ziad


Editor’s note: Ziadah Ziad attended Kirkwood Community College during the 2015 – 16 school year as part of the Community College Initiative Program. She wrote the following reflection after returning home to Indonesia. This article originally appeared on Ziad’s blog. 

A month before leaving Kirkwood Community College, the international office had started to give special program to help international students to be prepared for moving back home. 

The last month, the advisor talked about tips and tricks to cope with reverse culture shock—a condition when a place that is expected to be home, no longer feels like home after living abroad. 

During the program, there are four words that are said repeatedly. They sound positive but sometimes are tense and lifted. People change, you change. Every time I heard these words from my advisor, I already knew that I would have to be more accepting in order to get rid of that shock right away.

As my flight home was getting closer, my feet were growing heavier. Iowa looked even more beautiful than the first time I saw it. I sighed and then packed away all my memories. 

I brought home photographs, a Tunisian t-shirt, letters, shoes, books, a statue of a reader from my mentor family and all the tickets from museums that I visited. 

On May 18, 2016, I stepped foot onto my island, the place where I was born and raised. I met my family and friends that I used to hang out with. I went to the places where I used to go and I tasted my favorite foods that I grew up with. They all smell the same and it feels the same but I realized that I have changed. 

Now that it has been several months, I still find a lot of things that I am struggling with. 

1. When I go places, I am afraid of being late but when I arrive I mostly find that I am the earliest one. One day I did a community development in one of the elementary schools in Lombok. I arrived on time with some volunteers who were well-prepared but it didn’t start as it was scheduled.

2. Occasionally some weird patterns pop up in my writing. I write some words in different spelling systems since my brain works back and forth between my second and first languages and I get them easily mixed. 

3. When I was abroad I had a lot of adventures and I felt no pressure. I didn’t feel any forcing to meet my family’s or society’s expectations. But when I am home all my friends are getting married, having babies, buying houses and cars and settling down. The expectation seems clear but I am still thinking of where my next destination on Earth will be. 

4. I used public transportation a lot in the U.S. and I didn’t ride a motorbike for a year. After returning home, I don’t ride as well as I did. I am getting slower and scared to ride on the steep road. 

5. I thought people would never get bored hearing all the details of my year-long adventures. 

6. Every time I speak, there is always something that comes up about things or places in the U.S. I don’t mean to compare things. It is just always there on the top of my mental lexicon.

8.  I am surprised how much my hometown has changed. Some roads are getting wider and buildings are getting taller. It took me awhile to feel like it was the same place where I used to be. 

9. My relationships with people have changed, too. People evolve and my friends have new social groups. Some people moved to other places and some remain here. 

10. I am jealous when I know that some people are leaving for their adventures and I am still, and always will be, waiting for my next turn. 

11. I feel sorry when I realize that I miss some places from the U.S. and didn’t do any cheesy touristy things. 

12. I am extremely annoyed when I see people littering everywhere. Once I told a stranger to throw his rubbish in the bin. I even picked up some and brought it home. 

13. The ticket price is insanely expensive but I still wish some international friends will come to visit me.

14. When I cook foods that I liked most in U.S., the taste is not the same without people who were around me. 

15. I feel like a misfit and keep questioning what home really means.

Kirkwood Community College President Dr. Mick Starcevich
shakes hands with former student Ziadah Ziad.
Photo contributed


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