It’s here, it’s happening. The flight is ready for take-off with your name on one of those California-bound seats. (If you’re lucky, it’s a window seat that teases you with one final look at your host country before you’re up in the clouds and on your 5,000 mile journey back to the Golden State.)
Whether you’re post-study abroad plans involve summer school, work, travel or simply making it a mission to eat as much authentic Mexican food as possible to make up for the lack of it whilst abroad, here are 3 of our top tips to remember as you return home from your study abroad experience:
TELL YOUR STORY, BUT KEEP IT SIMPLE: Friends and family are going to be excited to hear about your #ukiuceap experience, but that doesn’t mean they’ll want every conversation from here on out to begin with you saying, “Well, when I was abroad” followed by a 45 minute story about one of your adventures. One key piece of advice that has always stuck with me about returning home after time away is this: create 3 versions of your experience to share- one that’s 30 seconds long, one that’s 3 minutes long and one that’s 30 minutes long. I know, it’s impossible to sum up a semester’s-worth of adventures in 3 minutes, let alone 30 seconds, but this is a great exercise for allowing yourself to be reflective of your experience and really pull out the key aspects that are worth highlighting to friends and family.
IT’S OKAY TO FEEL (FILL IN THE BLANK): “What was the most difficult part of your experience abroad, Autumn?” I would often get asked. My answer was always the same: returning home. Adjusting to a foreign education system, currency and way of living? I managed. Sleeping in uncomfortable buses as I travelled from one European city to the next? Been there, done that. But re-adjusting to life back home after a year away? Now THAT was a challenge I was not ready for!
Returning home after a study abroad experience is a time that is filled with many emotions-happiness, excitement, nervousness, sadness, confusion-all within the span of 5 minutes and all of which are perfectly normal and to be expected after a life-changing semester or year abroad. Reverse culture shock is real and, just as you went through a period of missing home whilst abroad, it’s normal to experience some “reverse homesickness” for the people, places and things that were a major part of your life overseas. Be patient with yourself as you make the transition into life back home and understand that re-entry is another phase of cultural adjustment.
STAY CONNECTED: Ask any returnee, your desire to talk about your experience is likely to be very high when first returning home. One great way to use this new energy and passion in a positive way is to get involved in discussions, info sessions and activities put on by your campus study abroad centre or international office. Here, you’ll be able to connect with others who have also experienced life abroad, share your tales with eager prospective students and further reflect on your own personal journey abroad.
Studying abroad is an extremely special experience that people are lucky enough to have often only once in their lives. But remember, your journey doesn’t end here.
Safe travels home!