Life After Study Abroad


July 5, 2012
by Darci Miller

When preparing for your semester abroad, you’re bombarded with advice – bring this amount of clothes, make sure to see these cities, make sure to experience the culture of your new country, etc. – but what about when you go home? I spent five months living in London and becoming pseudo-British. What was I left with when I returned to the U.S.? A strong affinity for tea, thousands of pictures and no idea how to deal.

When preparing for your semester abroad, you’re bombarded with advice – bring this amount of clothes, make sure to see these cities, make sure to experience the culture of your new country, etc. – but what about when you go home? I spent five months living in London and becoming pseudo-British. What was I left with when I returned to the U.S.? A strong affinity for tea, thousands of pictures and no idea how to deal.

Reverse culture shock was almost as scary as culture shock itself. I went from the Tube to the subway, chips to French fries, looking left when crossing the road to looking right, a flat to a house and (most jarringly) life in a big city to life in a suburb. I can no longer see Olympic Stadium from my bedroom window and my friends are scattered across continents. Life in America seemed incredibly unappealing.

What really helped me has been keeping some of the habits I picked up in London the same. A group of friends and I still send Facebook messages instead of texting, I still drink tea every night before I go to bed, and I still keep my Oyster card in my wallet. Blogging about everything while the feelings and memories were still fresh was very cathartic and a quick glance at photos never goes amiss. These things remind me that, while I’m not physically there anymore, studying abroad HAS changed me: I’ll never be the same as I was before I went...and that’s okay.

At the same time, jumping back into home life is very important. Don’t give yourself time to be too sad: find a job, restart a hobby, reconnect with old friends. Is there something you’ve wanted to do for a while but haven’t gotten around to it? Now’s the perfect time! Getting excited about things you’re doing at home make the sting of no longer being abroad much more tolerable.

If you were happy at home once, you can be again – you just have to figure out how to make it happen for the new, world-traveling you. But you do have to look the country-appropriate way when crossing the road. There’s really no getting around that one!

Darci Miller is a New Yorker studying journalism and sport administration at the University of Miami. When she’s not writing for the school newspaper, you can find her at the gym, either working or working out. She loves all ‘80s pop culture (the cheesier, the better!) and glues herself to her TV when the Olympics are on. She dreams big and believes the sky’s the limit.

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