Adjusting Back to Normal After Studying Abroad: An Essential Guide

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Studying abroad — whether for a semester, a year, or your entire degree — is a truly incredible experience. It’s one of the few times where you have the chance to actually live in another country – not just visiting for a few weeks and relaxing, but actually experiencing the ins and outs of life in another place. Studying abroad expands your mind, shows you another culture and gives you the chance to experience new things. But it can also make you painfully aware of what you don’t have back home.

Returning after months of fun and excitement to the same old place you’ve grown up in can be surprisingly different. Nothing matches up to your experience, and suddenly the things that were fine before seem dull and different now. You simultaneously feel the restrictions of being back home, and the pangs of missing your old life in another country. You miss the food, the accents, the classes, the people. Seeing another place brings all the bad parts of your home into sharp focus. It’s no wonder that before you set off for your semester or year abroad, you were warned, over and over again, about the risk of ‘reverse culture shock’ and depression on your return. So how do you deal with it?

1. Bring some of the culture back with you. If you know you’re going to miss the tea or the cookies from the place you’ve been studying, stock up. Seriously, pack another suitcase full of whatever you need. If you’ve made some amazing friends and you’re not sure when you’ll see them next, print off photos to place around your desk. Just having some parts of your experience present in your daily life will make a huge difference.

2. Don’t compare and contrast too much. It’s so easy to look back on your study abroad experience as this incredible, perfect time, and then pick out every difference between here and there. Remember that your experience there was just a snapshot of the country. The same way your home may disappoint you at times, living forever in the place where you studied abroad wouldn’t be problem free. Try not to constantly criticize your home for being different to your temporary experience.

3. Don’t live in the past. Don’t focus on an experience that is now over. It’s great to appreciate your time abroad, but ignoring all the great things of your current life just so you can reminisce is a HUGE mistake. Don’t bore your friends by constantly talking about your time abroad, have fun with them and catch up on all the stuff they’ve been up to while you’ve been gone. 

4. Remember you have responsibilities, and that, for now, your life is here. The biggest mistake you can make is focusing so hard on your study abroad experience that you don’t work hard and study once you’re home. I get that you might have loved classes over there, and that you preferred the way exams were. But don’t turn those into excuses for not working hard. Make the most of your college experience at home the same way you embraced everything about your study abroad experience, because, believe me, you’ll graduate soon and miss it just as much as you miss your life in another country right now.

5. Keep in contact. While it’s important not to get caught up in focusing on your semester or year abroad, it’s not a bad idea to keep some connections to your experience. Make time to check in with the friends you made: it is possible to maintain friendships while you’re in another country.

6. It’s okay to miss it. Prepare to feel kind of sad. Be ready to want to talk about it all the time. Don’t worry if you cry. It’s all okay, it will feel weird, but it’s completely normal.

7. Plan a visitIf you really loved the place you studied, a visit in the future will be a great thing to look forward to. Save up and plan a trip for after graduation. It’ll be even better if you can take your friends from home along with you.

Where did you study abroad? How are you coping with being home again?Leave a comment below and let us know!

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