Studying abroad can be unnerving, but when you make it you need to celebrate.
What is usually not discussed, along with mental illness abroad (which you can read about in part two here), is the adaption back — or “re-entry.”
Maybe you don’t think this is a problem, especially if you are someone who is homesick a lot or even if you are someone who was so excited to start traveling. It is hard to get back to the way things were.
Careful With Confusion
It doesn’t matter how long you were gone. I only had studied abroad for one month and I had already picked up multiple mannerisms from Rome that didn’t apply back to the states. One of these was crossing the street without looking (that one almost got me killed when I came back home). These mannerisms are different for everybody, and some habits will end up being easier to break than others.
Little things like that make you realize that living away really does effect you, even if you thought it wouldn’t. Luckily that was a quick fix, and other habits started to surface, too. Different languages popped up in my head, my sleep schedule was off for a while, and I craved cappuccinos and cornettis for breakfast everyday. If you can, integrate your new habits with your old ones.
Adjusting back could be harder, it could also be missing your experience abroad so much that you aren’t happy back home anymore. I experienced this heavily too. It’s weird to miss home when you are away from home, and then miss somewhere else when you’re back. Another huge problem students have when coming back is trying to get back into the swing of things. Whether you’re gone for a month or a semester, you will miss out on things that happened while you were away. Feeling left out, or that the world can move on without you, also sucks. It is important to try to pick up where things left off with your social life. Don’t be afraid to communicate how you are feeling to those around you as well. You were definitely missed, and you shouldn’t feel otherwise.
Keep Up With The Culture
There are many ways to incorporate the new culture you’ve experienced with the one you grew up with. It won’t be as authentic, or as good, but going to restaurants based off the country you went to could be a start. Purchasing a memento to keep at home will remind you of your experience constantly. A major thing that helped me when I came back was to participate in groups where we discussed our study abroad experiences. It was really good to connect with other people about the same feelings I was having as well. Keeping in contact with those you went abroad with is a good idea, too. Whether it’s your classmates, host family, or even a romantic fling, this is a great way to stay in touch with your experiences away from home.
Overall, the best choice I made to keep my connection with the country I studied abroad in was to make plans to go back as soon as I could. Hopefully something within this three-part series was useful whether you want to study abroad or you already came back from it. Maybe you only relate to the adaptation of different cultures aspect, which is great, too. Either way what this experience taught me was education and culture go hand-in-hand.