When I was preparing to study abroad in Ireland, I was given a lot of advice: What the educational system would be like, how and what to pack, how rainy the weather would be, traveling tips, what the Irish culture is like. But what I wasn’t prepared for was the reverse culture shock I experienced when I returned home.
It was an odd phenomenon, feeling out of place in my home town. I didn’t realize just how adjusted I was to the way of life in Ireland. And let’s face it, studying abroad is quite an adventure and it’s never easy to end such a great journey. However, I quickly learned that I was not the only one feeling homesick for my host country. All of my friends I studied abroad with felt the same way. It is completely normal. And you know what? It means that you embraced every second of your time abroad and you engrossed yourself in the culture.So, if you are preparing to study abroad, realize that you will change. You will most likely see the world a little differently, have experiences that others cannot relate to, and feel a bit homesick for your host country. But this is GOOD! How many people can say that they miss their favorite coffee shop in the heart of Galway? Or they miss the neighbors they had in Rome? Or they miss the restaurant in Paris where they tried escargot? Don’t think of reverse culture shock as a bad thing. Instead, think of it as proof that studying abroad was an experience that you will always cherish.
So, here is some advice: First and foremost, be prepared for reverse culture shock. It is different for everyone but remember, it is normal, it will fade over time, and it means you had a great experience. Also, some things may help: Creating a schedule (work, school, clubs, workout routines, etc…) will help keep you busy. It will create order and meaning in your life. On the other hand, don’t think that adventures need to stop just because you are home. Put yourself out there, talk to new people, join new clubs, try interesting restaurants, go on hikes, plan a road trip. Realize that every day can be an adventure if you make it one. A few other things that helped me were getting involved with the study abroad office, keeping in touch with friends I made while abroad, and remembering what I missed when I was away (It was hard to stay sad when I was eating the peanut butter I craved for months!).
When you are preparing to study abroad, realize that you will not only have to adapt to your host country, but also adapt back to life at home. Just remember, when you’re feeling that reverse culture shock, it means you had an adventure worth missing.
Rachel Balon was a CEA Alumni Ambassador and is a senior at Keystone College. She studied abroad in Galway, Ireland, and was a CEA MOJO during the Fall 2014 semester.
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