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Well, I'm Home. Now What?

It’s amazing just how fast another country can become home, how quickly the everyday aspects of another culture become normal. By the end of my four month stay in Galway, Ireland, I was accustomed to the constant rain, enjoyed walking everywhere, started using the slang terms, had favorite pubs, tea shops, and restaurants, and was attached to my new friends. I had adopted the way of life in Ireland and I was comfortable with it.

However, not once did I think that returning home would be a challenge. After all, I lived in Pennsylvania all my life. But it took me a while to adapt to the normalcy of life back home. Reverse culture shock can feel strange and even be a bit worrisome. But it’s nothing to fret over. Like I said, it’s amazing how fast we as humans adapt.

So, here are some of my tips for coping with reverse culture shock.

 First and foremost, don’t panic!

I remember feeling overwhelmed and anxious and worrying so much that I don’t fit in anymore. I kept asking myself, “Why does this feel strange? Why is this so hard?” Of course it feels odd to be home! A few days ago you were living in another country! Keep telling yourself that it is normal and be patient. Understanding that reverse culture shock is common is a great way to get rid of that sadness or panic.

It's okay to feel a bit lonely.

Maybe you miss your friends from your study abroad city or you feel that no one can relate to your experience. This fades over time. I coped with it by staying in touch with the friends that I’ve made. Talk about some memories and the adjusting process. The other students that studied abroad with you probably feel the same way as you. Also, there’s many people that want to hear about your travels: friends, family, teachers, the study abroad office. Don’t bottle up your experience, share it.

Develop a schedule.

This is an easy way to help get rid of some of that awkwardness you feel. The moment I started working and going to school, not knowing what to do or how to feel vanished. It’s a great way to keep you grounded.

Realize that every day can be an adventure.

Yes, routines are helpful, but so is seeking out new opportunities. Something that makes studying abroad so exciting is the fact that everything and everyone is new. Keep that curiosity and excitement alive by trying out an interesting restaurant in your town that you’ve never been to or taking a random road trip or even joining a new club or group to meet new people. Trying new things doesn’t have to stop just because you are home.

Remember to be grateful.

Be thankful for your study abroad opportunity as well as the things you missed when you were away from home. For example, I would purposely eat or drink things that were hard to find in Ireland to remind me that home has things to be grateful for. Sounds silly. But it always cheered me up when I was drinking my Dunkin Donuts coffee or opening a jar of organic peanut butter! Think back to the times when you were homesick and embrace everything that you missed.

Reverse culture shock can be a horrible feeling. But a positive attitude alongside an optimistic view on things will make the adjusting process much easier.

Rachel Balon is a CEA Alumni Ambassador and 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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