Holly Buckley talks us through the strangeness of arriving home from a year abroad and how to cope with the readjustment.
We have all heard of culture shock – that emotional difficulty and stress that comes from moving to a foreign country with different people and different cultures and different everything! It can be very overwhelming at the beginning and it’s important to remember that it affects people differently. Some people might not experience it at all. For me, I didn’t believe that I would ever experience it but as it turns out, I was wrong.
Now, reverse culture shock. Reverse culture shock is what happens when you return home after spending a prolonged period abroad. I bet you’re thinking, how can I feel culture shock in my own home? It’s possible! You are back home and things are different, even though it doesn’t look or seem like it. For me, returning home was a much tougher adjustment. I was lazy and negative. I felt like I had no purpose; I didn’t know what to do with myself. It was like I was sitting in someone else’s bath water, the shadow of the old me with all her old habits… not to be dramatic. In short, I was very down. I missed my life abroad and my friends. I missed how I had felt abroad and the person I had been.
Just as studying abroad demands so many lifestyle changes, so does moving home. You’re used to a different routine, and you miss your friends and the freedom you had. My big thing was how much I missed cycling and my bike (I lived in the Netherlands). You have been transformed and you might not know it! You have experienced something big, you have different habits and maybe different outlooks and new opinions. All of this comes to the surface, of course, when you return home. Your fantasy bubble has finally popped and reality hits you hard. Don’t worry, it’s not all downhill from here. Amidst the array of confusing feelings, there is a light!
What I have noticed with myself is that the feelings come in phases. When I got home, I was excited to see my friends and family and my dog. A few days later, I wanted my life abroad back and spent so much time wallowing. Of course, everyone is different. A few of my friends felt disengaged when they returned home. Suddenly you realise that most people don’t want to constantly listen to your stories. You might start comparing a lot of things about home to how things were abroad, and that might make you feel down or frustrated. You will feel like this every now and then but there are lots of ways you can deal with it.
It’s important to talk to your friends from abroad. They are going through the same thing as you and they are the people who will best understand your situation. Keep your memories alive – make plans to visit these friends. They haven’t suddenly ceased to exist just because you don’t live in the same country as them anymore. What I felt worked well for me was trying to change things and try new things when I got home. For example, writing this article is one of those things. I changed the things that made me feel down. I got a new job; I gradually changed my routine bit by bit and thankfully did not fall back into my pit. Keeping busy is also a good way to change your attitude. If you return for the summer, make plans, even if it’s just taking your dog for a walk. I think the most vital part is to give yourself time. Give yourself time when you come back to settle down and to spend time with your friends and family. Although you have probably spent a whole year chilling out, you need to take a break when you get home too! Don’t push yourself to be “the old you;” embrace yourself and your experiences and don’t be afraid to acknowledge any of these weird feelings you might be feeling.