As the summer begins to wind down, and the fall semester slowly approaches, many students who spent the summer or fall abroad will return home and try (really try!) to get back to their pre-abroad lives on campus. Finalizing classes, getting reacquainted with the old neighborhood, and sharing stories with friends and family are just some of the things students will do when they get back. If you're one of those students, don't forget that Diversity Abroad has resources to help you plan your return home.
Returning home can be a challenge, especially since the desire to reminisce about the summer can be so strong! Daydreaming and wishing you were back in a different country on the other side of the world isn’t unusual, but there are lots of ways to stay connected to that experience while still moving forward. Below are just a few suggestions we have to deal with “Reverse Culture Shock”:
Find friends on social media.
It’s so easy these days to keep in touch with friends from around the world thanks to social media. Find people you shared your experiences abroad with on Facebook or Instagram, or connect with colleagues through LinkedIn. Of course, exchanging e-mail addresses and keeping in touch is an easy way to go, too. Doing this means you’ll always maintain a strong connection with people you met during a unique experience in your life, no matter where in the world they (or you) might be!
Continue your foreign language studies.
If you studied the local language during your time abroad, you probably picked it up more quickly because you were immersed in the language and culture everywhere you turned. This means the reverse can be true too. You may just as quickly lose your language skills once you’re back, which is why you should continue your foreign language studies. If you can, enroll in the next level of study at your home institution. So, if you studied Spanish I abroad, take up Spanish II. You may even be in class with some of your fellow study abroad peers if you all went through a school program. Check out our Tips for Maintaining Language Fluency to help you get started.
If taking another course in your language is not an option, use apps like DuoLingo to keep you on your language A-game, or research language exchange courses in your local community that you can join.
Keep in touch -- the "old school" way!
(Writing Letters/Sending Care Packages)
Still, have friends back in your study abroad country? Consider sending them a handwritten letter. You can practice your writing skills, too! Another option would be to send them a care package. Pack it full of American gifts and snacks that they wouldn’t believe existed otherwise. Flamin’ Hot Cheetos? Pizza flavored Pringles? Maybe a shirt from your college! Exchanging gifts takes real thought and care, and that’s two of the most important factors to keeping friendships alive.
Get involved on campus.
Talk to your study abroad office about ways to stay involved with global opportunities. If you can become a peer advisor, share your expertise with other new students hoping to go abroad. Staying in touch with the study abroad office can also keep you updated on new fellowships or other programs, and participate in panels or study abroad fairs.
Eat! Get together and test new recipes or look for restaurants nearby.
Is there anything better than getting together with friends to eat? Organize a night where you get together with your new friends from studying abroad to cook a meal native to your study abroad country. Italian, Peruvian, Turkish -- it could be a fun way to reminisce and swap your favorite stories! If you think cooking would be too much work, you could try looking for a local restaurant instead. But cooking together could be that much more fun.
Celebrate holidays or traditions.
Studied in France? Celebrate Bastille Day! Did you go to Japan? Learn taiko drumming! Whatever you decide, try doing something to keep you connected to that culture, just be sure not to appropriate culture. Stay true to the meaning and proper representation of the culture. Maybe steer clear of recreating the Running of the Bulls in Spain. :-)
Go on a mini ‘stay-cation’ with your friends at home.
One of the best ways to help you move forward is to continue your adventurous spirit at home. Rediscover the areas around you by planning day trips, seeing museum exhibits, or trying new restaurants. The adventure bug never truly leaves you when you go home, so why not keep up your travels, stateside?
Tell us your story!
At Diversity Abroad, we think this is the best place to share your experiences with others who might identify with you and your initial fears about going abroad. Join our online community and re-live some of your best memories by sharing your story with us.
Plan your next adventure.
Once you go abroad, it’s only natural to begin planning your next great adventure. Maybe you’ll get the chance to study abroad again as an undergrad. Or perhaps this time you should consider an international internship. Teaching abroad is another excellent way to gain global experience -- and be paid for it! So why not?
Hopefully, this list is a great start to get you reacquainted with life back in the U.S. It's not always easy, but these tips can get you back on track for the beginning of the academic year.
Author: Trixie Cordova