Just like the title of this blog implies, it is very difficult to express how I currently feel about the end of my internship. Many of my family and friends have all asked me the typical post-internship questions: How was your internship? What did you do there? Are you happy now that you’re finally home? I know they are expecting straightforward and concise answers to those questions, such as “My internship was fun!” or “Yes, I’m happy to be finally home!” But the truth of the matter is, these questions are impossible to answer. The whirlwind of conflicting emotions that has accompanied me since I landed in Ottawa makes it impossible to answer a straightforward question. When people ask me, “How was your internship?” I feel like responding, “it was fun, incredible, stressful, depressing, appalling, ecstatic, scary, comfortable, weird, interesting, beautiful, familiar…” (the list goes on and on, but I will spare you the details). When people ask me, “Are you happy to be home?” I feel that the best and most honest response would be to say, “Yes…. But also no.” I don’t think I’ve ever felt this way about a trip before; my feelings regarding my trips abroad would usually be relatively straightforward. It would either be “This trip was amazing, I wish I didn’t have to go back to Canada” or “this trip was awful, I can’t wait to go back and see my family”. I wish my feelings regarding this internship were not so complex. And now I am struggling to figure out what exactly is making me feel this way.
I suppose it is the so-called “reverse culture shock” that I am currently experiencing, where an individual feels out of place in his/her own culture after travelling for long periods of time. By the end of the first month of the internship, I was finally getting over the initial “honeymoon stage” of my internship as I slowly became adjusted to the Vietnamese way of life. Things that once amazed me were no longer so wondrous; instead, it became an everyday part of my life. The loud and aggressive energy of Dong Hoi’s local market, which I first found to be exciting and strange, eventually came to feel quite familiar. I stopped being appalled at the Vietnamese people’s brutal honesty and their shameless sense of curiosity; instead, I felt myself being quite comfortable with it. I started to feel more completely at home in the exoticism of Dong Hoi’s physical characteristics (its natural environment, its unique architecture, its smell, etc). In short, the novelty of Dong Hoi was wearing off. This statement, however, should not be seen as something negative against the city; it simply means that Dong Hoi was steadily becoming my second home. And now that I am back in Canada, I feel more out of place than when I first arrived in Vietnam.
It is possible that I am being overly dramatic about this situation. It has only been, after all, a few days since my arrival in Ottawa. As my friends and family have been telling me, I will most likely get over my reverse culture shock in a week or so. At the moment, however, it seems as if I will never be able to get over it. I’m still finding it very difficult to imagine myself sitting through lectures in September; it feels much better to envision myself back in Dong Hoi, where I take two-hour naps, walk to work in sweltering heat, and eat cheap bowls of pho.