Regardless of where you study abroad, one thing that is undoubtedly the same for all locations is this: everyone who has been there before you will tell you it was the best thing they ever did, and they miss it every day. I’m here to tell you the latter is fiercely true because of the first.
It’s been two months since I said “see you soon” to my home away from home: London. I became so used to all the little things that make British culture what is it, that even though after 4 months I had a list of things I missed, after about a week of being home, I was left with an ache. I left a piece of my heart in London.
Adjusting to home life is a bit strange. You feel like you never left, but small things have changed because contrary to what you might think, life still happened while you were away.
How do you cope with being back and missing abroad?
1. Know that it’s okay to have culture shock
Normal, everyday things from home may seem foreign. Your reality might feel like it was turned inside-out, and upside-down. I experienced ’this the most when I spent a month in China 4 years ago. Post-China I had a very difficult time interacting with some of my very best friends, living day to day life, social media, and even smaller scale things like air-conditioning. Of course, Chinese culture is more drastically different from American than British, but it could have easily happened post-abroad as well. Sometimes it can hit you without warning, regardless of country or time spent there. It might seem scary, but know it’s normal, and it will pass. Reacclimate, and go easy on yourself.
2. Be thankful for the experience you had
“Wow, I wish we could have done this when we were your age.” — my parents (and probably yours too).
Realize how fortunate you are to have been able to study and live in a completely different country for an extended period of time. That experience is invaluable and incomparable to anything else. I know it’s cliche, and if you’re really aching about being back home it may sound more annoying than helpful, BUT it’s true nonetheless: don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened. This being said I’m a firm believer in crying (and releasing emotion), so if you feel like shit, and really can’t be happy right now, then let yourself feel like shit — it’s cathartic. You can, however, feel like shit and be thankful at the same time.
3. You’ll have changed for the better; continue to be that new you
You may not be able to put your finger on exactly how you changed, or in what way study- abroad has impacted you, but I guarantee it has. It may even be that you’ve realized new things about yourself. When you travel, you grow as an individual. It’s inevitable just like changing over time is. Hold on to your new self, and don’t feel like you have to mold back into the person you used to be. Sometimes it’s hard to hear from close friends that “you’ve changed” because you assume “change” has a negative connotation, but change isn’t an enemy.
An example? I got so much more comfortable doing things alone while abroad. There would be times where my friends were busy, and I wasn’t going to let myself sit around when I had all of London waiting to be explored, and only 4 months to do it (for now at least). I was happy going to a museum by myself, whereas a few months ago I would have felt too awkward about it.
4. Your adventures don’t have to end
This was probably what I struggled with most this time around. I was so upset that my life would go back to a mundane existence full of routines. Then one day I refused for that to be the case. There’s absolutely no way you’ve seen or done EVERYTHING in your hometown. If you genuinely have, move on to the town over. It doesn’t have to be over the top (although it can be if you get creative or live in a super cool place). For example, I went hiking at a preserve I had never been to before and I felt so happy to be exploring again. Simple, and very doable. Basically, live with that “every minute counts” mindset that you had abroad while at home too.